Transportation funding woes topic of discussion in northeast Missouri

As roads continue to crumble and bridges deteriorate, many are saying now is the time to find a solution to generate much needed revenue. (KTVO/Ashley Hoak)

It's no secret that funding issues have plagued Missouri's transportation system in recent years.

As roads continue to crumble and bridges deteriorate, many are saying now is the time to find a solution to generate much needed revenue.

Currently, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has $825 million in high-priority unfunded transportation needs.

That's why last year, the Policy Development Caucus (PDC) was formed by Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson.

Local State Representative Nate Walker (R-Kirksville) is a member of the caucus.

He made the direct invitation to the PDC Chair to host a town hall meeting in Kirksville.

"If we don't have good roads up here in north Missouri, we aren't going to have economic development. It's going to have a negative impact."

Chairman of the PDC, Jeff Messenger (R-Republic), echoed Walker's sentiments on infrastructure and the economy going hand-in-hand.

"I think infrastructure is probably the key thing for our economic development. Our infrastructure is getting in bad shape."

For the past few months, the PDC analyzed Missouri's transportation funding needs and also worked to come up with possible solutions.

The caucus is now presenting its findings at town halls held in various locations across the state.

Some in Missouri have questioned why MoDOT has had funding issues in recent years.

The answer is simple.

In the past, fuel taxes provided a bulk of revenue for MoDOT.

However, the fuel tax rate hasn't increased in 21 years, while the cost of doing business has continued to rise.

Messenger said one option that would hit close to the $825 million mark would be to increase the general sales tax.

He adds that he's hesitant because of the impact it would have on most Missourian's pockets.

"The sales tax, even though it would get us to where we want to be, it's on everything. When you sit down and start figuring that out, that's a huge amount of money for everybody. So, what we want to do is try to get where we want to get at the least amount of cost. That's where indexing comes to play."

Indexing or the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of average change in prices over time in a fixed market basket of goods and services.

Messenger says fees that could be indexed include: drivers licenses, license plates, titles and even motor fuel.

The PDC Chair says he feels indexing some of those fees may be the best option in the long run.

"I think that it helps our consumers and our constituents in a way that it doesn't hit them with a large amount."

Should the plan to index fees such as license plates and titles move forward, Messenger says the price amount would only rise a few dollars for the single customer.

He adds that he and members of the Policy Development Caucus will take feedback from the town halls with a hope of drafting legislation.

The Chairman says he feels the caucus is on the right track to better funding for transportation needs.

"It may take us 10, 15, 20 years to get there. If we start growing as we get there, we will get there eventually and I think that's the key part."

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