Missouri lawmaker wants to increase the gas tax for first time in over 20 years

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country. But one lawmaker is looking to change that in order to improve infrastructure across the state. 

At present, Missouri’s motor fuel tax is 17 cents. Illinois has a 38-cent tax and the gas tax in Kansas is 24 cents. Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz (R-Franklin County) filed Senate Bill 262 to increase the state’s gas tax by 2 cents a year for five years. 

“Probably one of the critical issues facing this state is ‘how do we fund our roads and bridges in the future?'” Schatz said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that depreciation is something that is very real.”

The last time Missouri increased its motor fuel tax was in 1996. According to Tax Foundation, Missouri has the second-lowest fuel tax in the nation behind Alaska. 

“We don’t have enough dollars coming into the system to maintain the system; to reinvest in the system,” Schatz said. 

Schatz is proposing legislation for the 2021 session to increase the state’s gas tax by two cents a year for five years, raising the motor fuel tax to 27 cents by 2026. 

“Basically, two cents for the average driver amounts to maybe what a cup of coffee would cost them on a monthly basis. Maybe $15 to $20 on the average driver would be it,” Schatz said. 

This measure might sound familiar to voters. Similar increases were ballot questions in 2014 and 2018 but neither passed. 

“Raising the motor fuel tax is the fairest way to do it but it also targets people who are non-Missouri residents in a way that if someone wanted to fund it out of general revenue, it would only target Missouri citizens,” Schatz said. “I don’t believe in general revenue as the source for funding our transportation.”

Schatz said due to the Hancock Amendment, which Missouri voters passed in 1980, lawmakers are not allowed to increase the gas tax by more than 2 cents without Missourians approval. 

“If the legislature made the determination that we want to implement a process over a five-year period, we could do that by raising it 2 cents over five years up to 10 cents and it wouldn’t have to go through the people,” Schatz said. 

The motor fuel tax would go towards maintaining roads and bridges throughout the state. 

“If we are not going to do that, then we will have to cut back on some of the services we provide and people are going to have to get accustomed to having rougher roads, bridges, and potholes or whatever you want to say, because if we can’t maintain the system, then what do they want us to do?” Schatz said. 

Schatz said if lawmakers pass SB 262 and increase the tax by two cents a year, it would bring an additional $80 million the first year. 

“People wouldn’t feel the impact of 10 cents if we raised it 10 cents tomorrow,” Schatz said. “With what we have seen with gas prices fluctuate back and forth, they wouldn’t know if it’s a fluctuation of gas prices or the fact that it was an increase in the motor fuel tax.”

Compared to other states, Schatz said Missouri would not tax diesel and gas differently. For now, his bill would raise both by 2 cents a year for five years.  

Schatz is also sponsoring a constitutional amendment with similar language. He said the reason he also filed the amendment is that lawmakers don’t approve the gas tax, then the question could possibly go back to the voters in 2022. 

Session starts on Jan. 6.

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