Road tax proposal would add to county, city funds

Thursday, June 20, 2002

PROPOSITION B

By Marc Powers ~ Southeast Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri counties and municipalities large and small would share an extra $51.8 million a year for local road and bridge projects if voters approve Proposition B.

The ballot measure, which Missouri voters will decide on Aug. 6, calls for adding 4 cents to the state fuel tax and increasing the statewide sales tax by a half cent.

Though the bulk of the estimated $483 million a year generated by the tax package would go to the Missouri Department of Transportation, the state Constitution earmarks a portion of fuel tax revenue and sales taxes from vehicle purchases to cities and counties.

MoDOT spokesman Jeff Briggs said that revenue is dispersed to local governments in monthly payments with no strings attached -- except that the money must be used for transportation.

"We are not involved in their project selection," Briggs said. "It is up to local governments to use the money for their roads and bridges as they see fit."

At present, cities receive $143 million a year in state transportation money and counties $107 million. Passage of Proposition B would provide an additional $26.55 million for municipalities and $25.25 million for counties -- a 21 percent combined increase.

Population factor

Each city's share is determined based on its population. Among Southeast Missouri cities, Cape Girardeau would get the biggest boost from new taxes -- $256,400. Biehle, population 11, would get $100 a year.

Cape Girardeau city manager Michael Miller said city officials haven't discussed what they would do with the extra quarter-million dollars if the tax issue passes.

"There is always a need for money in your street and bridge account," Miller said.

The allocation for counties is calculated on a county's assessed rural land valuation and total county road miles.

The money Southeast Missouri counties would receive from the tax hike ranges from a low of $72,900 for Carter County to a high of $259,000 for Stoddard County. Butler County would come in a close second with another $258,900 a year.

Butler County Presiding Commissioner Joe Humphrey said the commission hasn't discussed how Proposition B might help improve the county's roads.

"We have 900 miles of gravel roads," Humphrey said. "It would certainly help, but not have a major impact as far as seeing a huge difference."

Gary Markenson, a lobbyist of the Missouri Municipal League, that while cities and counties would get some benefits from Proposition B, his group dislikes the sales tax component. Increasing the state sales tax, he said, would hamper the ability of municipalities to raise their own sales taxes for transportation, capital improvements and other needs. However, he said the Municipal League isn't taking a position on the issue.

"I think some city officials will support Proposition B and others will oppose it," Markenson said. "We have some concerns about using sales taxes, but won't be out there opposing it."

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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