House chair cuts back road plan

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The chairman of the House Transportation Committee says he is scaling back a transportation funding plan in hopes of gaining support from lawmakers and voters.

Rep. Don Koller had proposed a roughly $850 million plan, but said Monday he was paring it to around $650 million.

Gone would be proposed increases in vehicle license fees, alcohol taxes and cigarette taxes. That would leave the package dependent on increases in the state sales and motor fuel taxes.

Koller, D-Summersville, said he had encountered opposition from the trucking and brewing industries and wanted to reduce the potential reasons for people to oppose his legislation. Plus, "it will be less complicated," he said.

The smaller funding package would bring Koller's plan closer to the $475 million plan endorsed by the Senate Transportation Committee, allowing for more reasonable negotiations, he said.

It also would be close in size to a transportation funding plan being considered as an initiative petition by a diverse group of transportation supporters. A person involved in that group said it is considering a ballot proposal that would raise less than $700 million annually.

Among the groups working on an initiative petition proposal are the Missouri Chamber of Commerce; Missouri Farm Bureau; St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association; Transport Missouri; and various general contractors.

Ballot issue

The legislative proposals would refer a transportation funding plan to the statewide ballot either this August or November.

Supporters of initiative petitions must first submit their proposals to the secretary of state's office. Only after the state approves a ballot title can supporters begin gathering petition signatures.

To make the November ballot, supporters must turn in signatures from about 150,000 registered voters by May 5. Specifically, they must gather signatures from 8 percent of the number of voters in the last statewide election in six of the state's nine congressional districts.

Besides sales and motor fuel tax increases for transportation, initiative petition backers also are considering a dedicated tax for the state Highway Patrol.

Koller said his revised proposal also may dedicate a portion of his proposed 1 cent sales tax increase to go to the state Highway Patrol. Koller also had proposed a 4-cent motor fuel tax increase.

House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, has proposed to combine a transportation funding plan with a tax increase for public school construction.

Both the separate and combined bills will get votes in his committee, Koller said, but he added that he would prefer to keep transportation as a separate issue.

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