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Road tax increase stalled in House

May 07, 2002
By: Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 970

JEFFERSON CITY - Debate on a tax increase to pay for Missouri roads broke down over the plan's price tag.

House members approved an amendment to the plan, which cut the tax increase in half to about $250 million annually. After the amendment passed, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville, laid the bill over without a final vote, saying the amendment killed his bill.

Koller had wanted to raise $650 million through a combination of a three-fourths cent sales tax increase and a three cent per gallon gas tax hike. The amendment, which proposed a smaller sales tax increase, took away too much funding for the bill, he said.

At issue is not only how much money should go for road construction, but how to pay for it. Koller's plan relies primarily on a sales tax increase, while opponents say gas taxes should pay for roads, because they put the burden of paying for roads on the people that use it the most.

If approved by the General Assembly, the proposal would be put on the ballot in the fall for voter approval.

Koller said the Missouri Petroleum Marketers Association, a lobbying group that represents gas station owners, would oppose any gas tax increase that was more than three cents per gallon.

Rep. Derio Gambaro, D-St. Louis City, who proposed the amendment, said some of his constituents that don't own cars shouldn't have to pay for road construction with a higher sales tax. As for opposition from the petroleum marketers to higher gas taxes, Gambaro said he would side with people in his district.

"Who do I fear; my constituents or the petroleum marketers?" Gambaro said. "I'm going to side with my constituents."