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The House Approves a Tax Package for Transportation

May 08, 2002
By: Kathryn Handley
State Capital Bureau
Links: HS SS SB 970

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House on Wednesday approved sending a $650 million tax increase to the voters to fund transportation.

"I very much want to put a ballot issue out to the voters in August," said Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia. "They'll have the summer to drive the roads on their family vacations, and I think they'll realize we need to raise the revenue to fix them."

The plan would raise Missouri's general sales tax by three-fourths of a cent on the dollar and increase the fuel tax by three cents per gallon. This bill is the House substitute for a Senate initiated proposal that would have increased the general sales tax by three-eighths of a cent on the dollar and raised the gasoline tax by six cents per gallon.

Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, voted in favor of the House plan but said she wished it didn't rely so heavily on sales tax revenue because she said it will be difficult for people on fixed incomes. However, she said she was glad the plan included funding for other forms of transportation, such as OATS, a program to provide transportation to disadvantaged Missourians.

"At least it's a start on addressing some of our road problems," she said.

Before the 88 to 68 vote almost along party lines, representatives proposed more than 30 amendments. One controversial amendment that passed delt with control of St. Louis' Lambert airport. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Hickey, D-St. Louis County, pitted St. Louis against St. Louis County.

The amendment would allow St. Louis County, where the airport is located, to have more representation on the airport's decision making board. The 17-member board has 10 members from St. Louis and only five from St. Louis County. One member is from St. Clair and one from St. Charles.

"It's like you having a smelly barking dog and keeping it in your neighbor's backyard and you can't do anything about it," Hickey said.

St. Louis Rep. James O'Toole, a Democrat, said the St. Louis delegation was "ticked off" about the amendment. "It zapped the life out of me," he said. O'Toole nevertheless voted for the plan.

Graham and Wilson said the Senate would not approve most of the amendments. This would force House and Senate negotiators to go to conference to iron out differences, at which time most amendments would be stripped off, Graham said.