The Year in Brief: As MoDOT braces for bleak funding future, solutions prove elusive



 

In brief

Missouri drivers could experience a bumpier ride in the next few years if lawmakers don’t find a way to pay for fixes to the state’s aging roads and bridges. After the Missouri General Assembly couldn’t agree on legislation to address the transportation department’s financial woes, state officials say that will remain a priority in the 2016 legislative session. Yet there is no clear consensus on the best way to fund the state’s infrastructure.

The Missouri Department of Transportation announced in July that it will focus its shrinking resources on maintaining the state’s major roads and bridges, but no capital improvements will be possible. Fewer fuel-tax receipts — which are MoDOT’s primary funding source – mean lower tax revenue and less federal funding for the department as a result. That has forced MoDOT to reduce its workforce and sell equipment and facilities in the past few years.


The Year in Brief offers a look at Missouri’s most important business stories of 2015 and previews how those stories could play out in 2016 and beyond. 


MoDOT warns it will face a $160 million funding gap by 2017 if no action is taken. The declining state revenue will not be able to match federal funds in 2017, which means more funds will be lost to other states.

The state’s fuel tax, at 17 cents per gallon, hasn’t been raised in almost 20 years.

In the future

A few proposals to increase the fuel tax have been submitted in the House and Senate for the 2016 legislative session after a proposed 2-cent-per-gallon gas tax plan was voted down in 2015. Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, who submitted the 2015 tax plan, has pre-filed another proposal to increase the tax on fuel by 1.5 cents a gallon and on diesel fuel by 3.5 cents. Two separate proposals in the House include similar increases.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has urged legislators to increase fuel taxes for transportation improvements and install tolls on I-70 to generate more funds. Missouri’s Republican candidates in the 2016 gubernatorial race all told a crowd at the Missouri Farm Bureau’s recent annual meeting that they oppose a tax increase to fund transportation.

In a graphic

Transportation-Funding-Graphic

 

In a tweet

Stephen Miller, chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, frequently discussed the dire condition of the state’s transportation infrastructure. In July, as the 2016 fiscal year began, Miller addressed the state’s five-year transportation plan, which he deemed a “glimpse of a future that no Missourian should want.”

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