(AP) — Missouri voters have said they don’t want to hike sales taxes to pay for roads and other transportation projects. But there appears to be no immediate Plan B for plugging a looming gap between the state’s available highway funding and its anticipated needs.
The defeat of the transportation sales tax in Tuesday’s primary elections marked the second time in a dozen years that Missouri voters have turned down a major highway tax plan. The measure commanded the most votes on a ballot that lacked competitive races for the top statewide and congressional offices.
The proposed three-quarters cent sales tax known as proposed Constitutional Amendment 7 would have raised at least $540 million annually for 10 years, making it the state’s largest-ever tax increase. The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission had approved a list of over 800 projects that would have been funded, led by the widening of Interstate 70 to three lanes in each direction between Kansas City and St. Louis.
That list now will be shelved, and transportation commissioners are to meet later Wednesday to discuss what to do next.
Commissioners have said previously that the state’s road and bridge budget is projected to drop to $325 million by 2017 from a recent high of $1.3 billion annually, leaving the agency without enough for needed maintenance, much less major new projects.
“I think Missourians have a clear understanding that more resources need to be invested in our transportation infrastructure, but there just isn’t any consensus on how to pay for it,” state transportation commission Chairman Stephen Miller said in a written statement after Tuesday’s election. “We need to continue working toward that end.”