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April 17, 2013 - JEFFERSON CITY — A sales-tax increase ballot proposal for transportation improvements cleared a House committee by an overwhelming margin last week.
The House Transportation Committee voted 14-1 to pass the measure Tuesday. If the measure is passed by the Legislature, it would be put the initiative before Missouri voters on the November 2014 ballot.
If approved by voters, the measure would increase the state sales taxes by one cent for a period of 10 years. In that 10-year period, the tax would generate about $8 billion, all but 10 percent of which would go to state transportation projects. After the 10 years, voters would choose whether to keep the one-cent tax in place or eliminate it.
The only dissenting vote came from an urban-district representative.
Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, voted against the measure and said some of her constituents may be concerned with how this tax would add to other sales-tax increases of individual cities.
May also said much of the transportation tax funds would go to rural areas instead of urban areas.
"The dollars are going to the rural part of Missouri and St. Louis City and Kansas City won't get a lot of those fundings," May said.
She also said an incentive will have to be offered to urban cities to encourage them to vote for the tax increase.
Sen. Mike Kehoe, who sponsored the measure, said a list of projects won't be finalized until after the measure is approved by the legislature, but a list of important projects would be made available to the public before the tax increase is put to a vote.
"You do not want to develop a list in this building (the state Capitol) because it will become very political very quickly," said Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, a former car dealer and former member of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.
The recently appointed director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, Dave Nichols, urged the committee to support the tax increase, saying the department needs additional funding to full provide for the state's transportation system. Nichols was appointed to the position just a few weeks ago, after Kevin Keith resigned and took a medical leave. Keith previously had spoken in favor of the ballot measure.
Some representatives, although supportive of the measure, said Missouri citizens will be reluctant to pass a tax increase.
Rep. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy, said he supports the measure, but lawmakers have to persuade voters to pass it.
"We got a little work to do to sell this before it goes to a vote of the public," Schieffer said.
Missouri citizens rejected a tobacco tax increase last year that would have helped fund the state's public schools.
The measure must now go to the House Rules Committee before it moves on to the full House.