JEFFERSON CITY - Voters would have the chance to bring toll roads to Missouri under a plan approved Thursday by the House, with supporters promising greater accountability in the state transportation department.
The resolution, which now heads to the Senate, would also require voter approval of plans to reorganize the state's Transportation Commission and authorize it to build toll roads.
The House vote came shortly after a Senate committee approved a Democratic-sponsored transportation plan that would raise gas taxes by five cents per gallon and sales taxes by one half-cent per dollar.
A top Senate Republican said the GOP would not support any tax hike for transportation funding.
"It is our view that putting a plan like this out to the voters would be massacred by them," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau. Instead, Republicans argue that about $400 million should be diverted from the current budget to transportation.
Much of the disagreement over the toll proposal came from Republicans, who said it was unnecessary and fiscally irresponsible.
"If we pass this, we are necessarily giving them the power to not only study the feasibility, but to build toll roads," Rep. Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, said. "That's the problem with the proposal."
Opponents said it would be irresponsible for the state to take on additional debt to establish toll roads and that the commission would have too much power.
"It looks like carte blanche freedom to go any direction that they want with the toll roads with no input from anyone else," Rep. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, said.
The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville, said the proposal, along with the Gov. Bob Holden's "One Missouri" transportation plan, gives voters the chance to improve the state roads. Including toll roads is just one more option, he said.
"It gives the people an opportunity to give another tool to MoDOT to create an infrastructure that we need," Koller said.