Crucial Vote Coming Soon - Passage of the Missouri Highway Improvements Critical

on 20 June 2014

In the face of ongoing challenges, the Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City and our allies are determined to mount a successful campaign for approval of the Missouri transportation sales tax increase, which is coming up for a vote Aug. 5.

We were relieved when the General Assembly approved a ballot measure for a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a three-fourth-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The increase would provide more than $5 billion over 10 years for Missouri's critical transportation needs.

If approved, Missouri officials say I-70 will be widened to three lanes in each direction between the Kansas City area and suburban St. Louis. The Kansas City area would receive about $775.7 million of the $5 billion total. Much of the money would go toward improvements of interchanges and bridges, including a $73.8 million replacement of the Broadway Bridge.

We have found common cause with many groups that support this proposal - largely because of the jobs it would create. Missouri Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, says the work generated by the sales tax increase would generate more than 100,000 jobs over the 10-year period.

But opposition has plagued this proposal from the beginning.

Gov. Jay Nixon's  perplexing decision  to place the sales tax proposal  on the Aug. 5 ballot instead of the November ballot became clearer on June 2nd when he announced his opposition to the tax. August elections tend to  draw far fewer voters  and some experts say opponents are more likely to vote in an August election. Holding the election in August also shortens the time we have available to mount a campaign.

On June 12, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare filed a lawsuit contending that the summary and cost estimate prepared for voters was misleading and unfair. Our association strongly disagrees with that contention.

Amid these challenges, the HCA is suiting up to do our job: get the necessary information out to voters, so that they will understand the need for these additional funds to improve Missouri's transportation system.

We must make sure voters realize that Missouri is falling behind in terms of meeting its transportation infrastructure needs. We have not been keeping pace. It's very expensive to fix roads, but Missouri's transportation construction program has fallen from $1.2 billion to less than $700 million in recent years.

Voters also should be made aware that the sales tax increase would fund much more than roads and bridges, and would include transit programs that would benefit seniors in rural areas, for example. Also included would be improvements to Missouri ports along our rivers, and airports in small communities. Indeed, this tax increase would enable Missouri to establish a comprehensive, multi-pronged transportation program to improve all modes of transportation in all areas of the state.

One can make rational arguments in favor of other methods to fund transportation. But Missourians have said they oppose toll roads, gasoline tax increases and higher vehicle registration fees.
And while no one likes to pay higher sales taxes, it should be emphasized that this proposed tax increase would not apply to purchases of groceries and medicine.

This proposal came out of seven or more years of discussions with Missourians. With help from our members, we will do everything possible to see that it passes, for the good of all.