Proposition B and new law both change funding statute

Sunday, July 21, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- If voters approve Proposition B, there would be two different -- though not necessarily conflicting -- versions of the same statute on the books relating to the diversion of fuel tax revenue for purposes other than transportation.

Proposition B, which seeks a $483 million tax increase, contains a provision that would repeal an existing cap on the amount of transportation money that may go to the Missouri State Highway Patrol for the enforcement of traffic laws, the Department of Revenue for the costs of collecting transportation-related taxes and fees and to the Office of Administration for providing fringe benefits to employees of the patrol and the Department of Transportation.

The provision also states that no other agencies may receive money from the transportation fund starting July 1, 2003.

However, Gov. Bob Holden signed House Bill 1196 into law on May 28. The bill, the primary purpose of which was to remove the scheduled expiration of a fuel tax passed in 1992, replaces the same section of existing law on the revenue diversion that Proposition B would alter.

While HB 1196 also lifts the restriction on transportation revenue going to the patrol and OA, it does not include an exemption for the revenue department. Also, it allows other departments to continue to receive transportation funds, though at levels no higher than what they received for fiscal year 2001, which is unchanged from existing law.

HB 1196 takes effect Aug. 28. If voters approve Proposition B on Aug. 6, the provisions contained therein would become law on Jan. 1.

Both would be printed

Another state law specifies that when the General Assembly in the same year passes multiple bills that change a particular statute, the Revisor of Statutes is authorized to incorporate the various changes into a single section. If that is not possible, the competing versions are printed separately in the statute books. According to those to have examined the current case, the later option would be the one taken if Proposition B, which cleared the legislature this year as Senate Bill 915, passes.

"Both would be printed, that is not in question," said Scott Holste, a spokesman for state Attorney General Jay Nixon. "But as a general rule -- not necessarily an ironclad rule -- the one that takes effect later would be the controlling law."

That interpretation means that the stricter diversion limits in Proposition B would likely be the ones adhered to in the budget appropriations process.

John Cauwenbergh, MoDOT assistant counsel, said department officials do not believe the two versions would be in serious conflict, though they can't say so for certain.

"I think we have to wait and see what happens," Cauwenbergh said. "If they are going to print two statutes, we are at least going to have some confusion."

Cauwenbergh said lawmakers would probably "acquiesce to the will of the people" and follow the Proposition B version and enact clean-up legislation to delete the competing language.

Approximately $180 million a year in transportation money currently goes to other agencies, with the highway patrol getting about $120 million of that amount. Agencies that would lose all transportation revenue under Proposition B -- but not HB 1196 -- include the state treasurer, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Economic Development.

No guaranteed money

The diversion provisions have garnered scrutiny because of television advertisements Proposition B supporters are running that say the measure would "help secure funding for the Missouri State Highway Patrol." The patrol is not guaranteed any new revenue if Proposition B passes. Lifting the cap on level of transportation funding the patrol could receive is already accomplished under HB 1196, but the legislature and governor would have to approve any increases.

Another area where the provisions differ is that HB 1196 requires the state auditor annually determine if transportation revenue going to the patrol is being used only for the enforcement of traffic and vehicle laws. MoDOT's inspector general would be charged with ensuring such compliance under Proposition B.

State Sen. Larry Rohrbach, a Proposition B opponent, the two sections create a potential for conflicts, though he isn't certain it would cause a significant problem.

"I really don't know exactly how that would be resolved," said Rohrbach, R-California.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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