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St. Louis City & County Voters Rejected Same Four Amendments, Two Approved Statewide

August 7, 2014 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Taxes, Transportation 19 Comments

A decade ago Missouri voters amended our state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, but the majority of voters in the City of St. Louis voted no. As is often the case, city voters differed from state voters. I’ve not looked at previous elections, but this year voters in St. Louis County voted against the same four amendments.  Two amendments city & county voters rejected, Amendments 1 & 5, were approved by statewide voters.


I couldn’t locate statewide information on the number of ballots cast from each party, most likely greater than half were Republican.

The amendment that received the most votes was #7, a 3/4-cent sales tax for roads.

Transportation officials have been working for more than a decade to find more money. In 2002, voters defeated a proposed $483 million sales and fuel tax increase.

“There is no perfect solution,” said Kehoe, the sponsor. He said Amendment 7 was crafted around polling that showed a sales tax was most likely to pass at the polls. He said the fuel tax would have to be raised 20 to 25 cents per gallon to generate the money needed. (stltoday)

As you’ll see, Missouri has long resisted increases in the fuel tax. Here is the text from MoDOT’s funding history page:

Funding History


In July, the start of fiscal year 2009, Amendment 3 is fully phased-in, providing MoDOT with all of the motor vehicle sales tax revenues previously going to General Revenue.

MoDOT sold bonds for a portion of the new Interstate 64, a design-build project in the St. Louis region. For the first time, MoDOT secured bonds primarily with federal funds, rather than state funds. These bonds are called Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds.

In November, Missouri voters approved Constitutional Amendment 3, which requires all revenues collected from the sale of motor vehicles come to MoDOT. Previously, half of the sales tax went to MoDOT and half to the state’s general revenue fund. It requires the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to issue bonds for building highway and bridge projects and uses these additional revenues to pay back the bonds over a period of time. The additional Amendment 3 revenues are to be phased-in over a 4 year period in 25 percent increments.

Legislation is passed extending the 6-cents-per-gallon motor-fuel tax, which was due to expire in 2008. Proposition B, an omnibus transportation bill that would have increased the motor-fuel tax by 4 cents per gallon and the general sales tax by 1/2 percent, is defeated by voters by a 3-to-1 margin.

Legislation was passed, effective May 30, 2000, allowing MoDOT to issue $2.25 billion in bond financing to accelerate highway improvements. Up to $250 million in bonds can be issued in 2000 and up to $2 billion from 2001 through 2006. Projects funded by the first $250 million were required to come from MoDOT’s 5-Year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. MoDOT can issue up to $500 million per year in bond financing through the year 2006. MoDOT submits a bond financing project list to the Legislature each January for approval.

A 6-cent per gallon increase in the motor fuel tax is passed by the Legislature. The 6 cents is to be phased in over a 5-year period; 2 cents in 1992, 2 cents in 1994 and 2 cents in 1996.

Proposition A, a constitutional amendment to increase the motor fuel tax by 4 cents per gallon, is approved by the people. It becomes effective June 1.

Fees for motor vehicles and truck classes not raised in 1983 are increased.

Fees for some classes of trucks are increased.

Proposition B, a constitutional amendment to raise the motor fuel tax by 4 cents per gallon, is defeated by the people.

Voters approve a constitutional amendment changing the CART distribution formula. Counties receive 10 instead of 5 percent, cities receive the same 15 percent and the state receives 75 instead of 80 percent. The law is effective Jan. 1, 1980. The amendment also merges the Highway Department with the Transportation Department. Also included in this legislation is a provision that one-half of the motor vehicle sales tax go to finance road and bridge construction. Of this half, 74 percent would go to the state, 15 percent to the cities and 10 percent to the counties. The remaining 1 percent goes for planning of other transportation modes.

An initiative petition to increase the fuel tax 3 cents per gallon is defeated.

The Legislature passes a bill increasing the gas tax from 5 cents to 7 cents per gallon.

The Legislature passes a bill temporarily raising the fuel tax from 3 cents to 5 cents per gallon. The bill provides that a constitutional amendment be put before the people which would allow cities and counties to share in state motor fuel tax revenues. If the amendment is not submitted within six months, or if it is rejected, the tax would revert to 3 cents. Voters approve the amendment on March 6, 1962, and the 5-cent per gallon tax becomes permanent. This act establishes the County Aid Road Trust program.

On March 24, an act is approved increasing the motor vehicle tax from 2 cents to 3 cents per gallon. The law becomes effective July 29.

On April 4, Missourians again reject a referendum proposal to increase the motor vehicle tax. The proposal would have increased the tax from 2 cents to 4 cents per gallon.

On Nov. 8, the people defeat by referendum election an attempt of the Legislature to raise the fuel tax from 2 cents to 3 cents per gallon. At the same time, an initiative petition proposal to amend the Constitution to fix the fuel tax at 3 cents for 10 years is also defeated.

A 2-cent tax rate for motor vehicle fuel is adopted by a vote of the people under initiative petition. It is the state’s first motor fuel tax.

From the above I made this list of the fuel tax rate since 1924:

  • 1924 2-cents
  • 1952 3-cents (28 years, 100% increase)
  • 1961: 5-cents (9 years, 66% increase)
  • 1972: 7-cents (11 years, 40% increase)
  • 1987: 11-cents (15 years, 57% increase)
  • 1992: 13-cents (5 years, 18.18% increase)
  • 1994: 15-cents (2 years, 15.38% increase)
  • 1996: 17-cents (2 years, 13.33% increase)

It has now been 18+ years since the fuel tax was increased, the only period longer was the first increase after the initial tax! Had the 1990s 2-cent increase every two years continued we’d be at 34-cents — double the current rate. We’d still be lower than Illinois and many other states. Amendment 7 proponents say voters rejected a 2002 attempt to raise the fuel tax rate. From above: “Proposition B, an omnibus transportation bill that would have increased the motor-fuel tax by 4 cents per gallon and the general sales tax by 1/2 percent, is defeated by voters by a 3-to-1 margin.” They’d proposed a measly 4-cent fuel tax increase combined with a 1/2-cent general sales tax. I don’t recall how I voted a dozen years ago, but I likely voted no based on the general sales tax increase.

Here’s what should happen:

  • The Missouri legislature should pass legislation to double the fuel tax from 17-cents to 34-cents over the next 5-10 years.
  • The Missouri legislature should pass legislation make I-70 a toll road between Kanas City and St. Louis. This revenue, not the fuel tax, would be used to widen I-70.

We do need to maintain our infrastructure, we should be cautious about adding to the system if we aren’t willing to raise the fuel tax. Why build more miles of highway if we can’t maintain what we have now?

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "19 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Good research, no big surprises, agree with some of your conclusions (MoDOT needs more revenue, so raise the fuel tax), but not all (make I-70 a toll road). Three points – one, I’m not sure why we (the voters) have to approve an increase in the fuel tax rate? Do we get to vote on our income tax rates? Our property tax rates? Isn’t it up to the legislature to make these hard decisions? Nobody likes paying taxes, and even fewer like paying more in taxes, so, yeah, getting the voters to improve a tax increase is/will be very difficult, if not impossible, but blaming Grover Norquist for a lack of legislative spine is an abdication of basic responsibility – “just say no” is NOT the answer.

    Two, inflation is a fact of life. In 1995, gas was $1.50 a gallon, today it’s $3.25. Fuel prices already go up and down by 10 or 20 cents a gallon every few days. If the tax increase were phased in, adding just one cent a gallon every 6 months, for the next 8 or 10 years, the increase would be imperceptible, yet would double the revenue.

    And three, no, toll roads are not the answer. Toll roads are inherently unfair since they target the users of one (or a very limited number of) corridor(s). Why toll just I-70 and not toll I-44 and/or I-55? Why should alumni pay a toll to go to games in Columbia while other alumni get a “free ride” to go to games in Rolla? Why should commuters from Warrenton have to pay every day while those from Festus would not? Everybody pays fuel taxes, everybody should get access to all our state highways. The only way to balance things out would be to create fuel plazas on the toll road(s) where the state tax would not be collected (and you KNOW that ain’t gonna happen)!

    The one big, fundamental problem I see facing MoDOT is the elephant in the room, is the miles and miles of rural, letter (AA, N, B) highways that requires repaving, new bridges and snow removal. Most of these roads are little more than glorified driveways, serving a shrinking number of farms and rural residents. In most states, these would be the responsibility of the counties, not the state. MoDOT’s focus needs to be on major roads, the ones that connect population centers, not tertiary byways that serve one or two dozen families that live up some hollow. Compare the number of lane miles of city streets and privately-maintained subdivision roads in the county to the number of lane miles on the interstates and state highways, then compare the ratio in rural counties – you’ll be amazed. Metro areas are sending a lot of dollars to rural areas that would be better spent where they’re being generated.

    Pretty much every exit along I-70 has one or more gas stations, so there is revenue being generated along every mile of I-70. If all that revenue were spent on I-70 (and not on O and DD), we wouldn’t be facing the challenges we are now. But if you really want to build a toll road, do it somewhere it’s really needed, build one parallel US 54, between Fulton and Osage Beach, through Jefferson City, from I-70 to Lake of the Ozarks, or by building a bypass around Branson!

    • Our legislature doesn’t want to increase taxes — they voted for a tax cut and overrode the governor’s veto.

      Yes, had we kept up the small increases from the early 90s we’d have had the revenue to maintain our roads & bridges. Missouri likes to refuse to keep up then panic.

      I’d be fine with tolling I-55, I-44, & I-70. In Chicago last week riding with my cousin in the burbs we used a tollway. Driving back to visit family in Oklahoma City I-44 becomes a toll road at the state line. It’s a fact of life…except in Missouri.

    • guest says:

      ” Toll roads are inherently unfair since they target the users of one (or
      a very limited number of) corridor(s). Why toll just I-70 and not toll
      I-44 and/or I-55?”

      Because it’s more heavily used?

      And a question that comes to mind, since you’re talking about fairness, why should people who use public transit or not even use the highway system have to pay for it?

      We all pay for things we don’t use in this country (i don’t have kids, but i pay for schools), figured you’d know that.

      • JZ71 says:

        People who use buses for public transit (the bulk of all transit riders) use the same streets and highways as everyone else, plus get their vehicles and the fuel that they use subsidized by other taxpayers – bogus argument. The only transit that doesn’t use the highways is rail transit (Metrolink, here) and it requires huge subsidies for both construction and operation.

        The “because it’s more heavily used” argument sounds a lot like Clyde Barrow’s answer to “Why do you rob banks? Because that’s where the money is!” Missouri has a higher proportion of state-maintained highways than many other states. While little-used roads don’t wear out as quickly as heavily-used ones, they cost the same to rebuild and plow. I’d guess that only 2%-3% of the total lane miles in St. Louis city and county are maintained by MoDOT (the rest are maintained by the city, the county or are private streets maintained by the adjacent residents), while 20%-30% (or more) are maintained by MoDOT in rural counties.

        The real solution is a different form of tolling, one that charges you for the actual miles you drive on ALL roads, but that would require electronic monitoring by the government, and that’s going to be even harder to get through the legislature than an increase in the tax rate!

        • Greyhound, Megabus, etc all pay fuel taxes for using interstate highways. They also pay tolls.

          • JZ71 says:

            Greyhound and Megabus are not the same form of public transit as Metro (and I assume that guest was referring primarily to local public transit, not intercity buses).

            As for the “more-heavily used” argument, we used to do toll bridges, which, since they’re typically few and far between over major rivers, are prime candidates for tolling. We made a conscious decision NOT to toll the new Stan Musial bridge. It would’ve been a great test case for tolling, locally, but NIMBY (on the Illinois side) killed the idea. But if we really want to pursue the “more-heavily used” argument, why not turn I-255 / I-270 Tollway, much like the Tri-State Tollway around Chicago.

            Bottom line, toll roads make a whole lot more sense when they’re built as new projects, not taking existing FREEways and (trying to) imposing new tolls decades after they were first constructed. Maintenance was an assumed part of the bargain when the federal government paid for 90% of the original construction costs. Much like government employee pensions, where our political leaders have “kicked the can down the road” for decades, and underfunded the real costs, trying to “stick it” to the most-heavily used sections, now, to generate “new” revenue, while letting the rest of the state get a free ride, is patently unfair to those users who are stuck with any new toll facilities.

            And, BTW, there used to be a Kentucky Turnpike that was a part of I-65 (much like the Oklahoma Turnpike), but once its construction was paid for, it was turned into a freeway, not a never-ending cash cow . . . .

          • Local public transit buses rarely use highways. Yes, they don’t pay fuel taxes but those of us who use public transit do ride buses that pay fuel taxes & tolls. My post tomorrow is on a recent MegaBus.

            Doing one bridge I the metro area would be an awful test case. You need a bigger stretch to get people to justify buying the electric devices for payment.

            I agree that taking a free highway and making it a toll highway is difficult for a variety of reasons, numerous entry/exit points for one. MoDOT wants to rebuild I-70 across the entire state, the perfect opportunity to toll the highway.

          • JZ71 says:

            If MoDOT or a private entity decided to build a new, limited-access highway between Wentzville (the intersection of I-70 and I-64) and Independence, along a new alignment, a toll road might be both justified and successful. Just slapping tolls on one existing interstate highway, using the argument that its “needed” because of years of deferred maintenance and then redirecting funds that would have gone to this needed project to other needs elsewhere in the state is a classic case of double taxation at its finest.

            The biggest supporters of tolling an existing highway are people who rarely or never use the highway in question, and the biggest argument for doing any toll road is to provide a quicker option that a certain number of people are willing to pay for. Anyone who has to pay a toll every day to get to work quickly learns to detest the concept, especially lower-paid workers. Yes, we need money to fix our highways, but just raise the damn fuel tax – it’s the fairest way to allocate costs based on actual usage, and doesn’t require anyone to buy any “electric devices for payment”!

          • MoDOT is the one advocating the rebuild, requesting more funding when the current level of funding isn’t adequate to maintain existing roads./bridges. Tolling is the most fair way to fund the massive rebuild/widening project and then maintain it later.

            I don’t advocate rebuilding I-70 or tolls.

          • JZ71 says:

            Then MoDOT should have also proposed putting tolls on the 40/64 rebuild in the city and county, the extension of I-64 through St. Charles County, the rebuild of the Boone Bridge, the reconstruction of route 94 in St. Charles County, the widening of the Poplar Street Bridge, and the construction of the new route 364 (to replace Route N), and on and on and on . . . .

          • Just because MoDOT didn’t propose tolls on local highway projects doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be considered for a highway that spans the state.

          • JZ71 says:

            And for the same reason, tolls should be considered for all our bridges over the Mississippi – New York has tolls on both the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan AND they have the New York Thruway (that “spans the state”)! Makes about as much sense as starting to charge admission to the zoo, here – just because everyone else is doing it, we should, too . . . .

          • Tolls are done to fund specific bridges/roads, not general revenue. I supported tolling the new bridge, Illinois objected because they’re higher fuel tax allowed them to come up with their match. Tolls could’ve been added to I-64/hwy 40, but they weren’t.

            If MoDOT wants money for I-70 tolling the highway should be an option.

          • JZ71 says:

            No – raising the fuel tax is a much better option! I-70 is NOT unique, it’s just being made the poster child for transportation funding, in general. Its use, maintenance, repair and reconstruction is NO different than ANY other interstate highway in the state! It needs to be prioritized, just like every other highway project in the state, NOT treated as something in a class of one. Tolling I-70 makes about as much sense as creating a lottery ticket to fund the state VA home or using lottery revenues to pay for schools. There is a finite pool of revenues coming into the state and an infinite list of needs that require funding. Any time a “new”, “dedicated” funding source is identified / created for some specific “need” or project, guess what? The funding that would’ve come from general sources gets redirected to other “needs” that don’t have a defined funding source!

            This is just a political shell game, no different than cutting the income tax rate and then expecting to replace that revenue with a higher sales tax rate! And you’re truly naive if you think that “Tolls are . . . not [used for] general revenue”. Compare what Kentucky, Connecticut and Colorado did with their toll roads when the construction bonds were retired (paid off) – they became free highways – with what other states have done. Indiana sold the rights to operate the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years in 2006 for $3.8 billion, with the proceeds going to backfill the state’s and several counties’ budgets – i.e., the funds went toward general revenues! The Illinois Tollway has management and operations costs in excess of $260 million annually, one third of its total budget.

            You know me – I skew libertarian in many of my positions. I don’t have a lot of problems with new toll facilities being constructed where nothing existed before. I also don’t have much problem paying tolls when I’m on vacation – it’s the cost of admission and gets budgeted into our larger travel budget. Where I draw the line is in Missouri where too many residents expect no/low taxes and full services, expecting “someone else” to pay the freight. It doesn’t matter if its transit, highways or the zoo, everyone expects a free (or highly subsidized) ride. If our gas tax were a lot higher and/or we didn’t have a state income tax (like Texas and Florida), toll roads might start to make sense. Right now, with plenty of room for the tax rate to grow and STILL be well below that of both our neighbors and the national average, I see absolutely no rational argument for looking at tolls except for the “stick it to someone else” factor!



          • Had our legislature incrementally raised the fuel tax for the last 18 years our roads & bridges would be in better shape and we’d likely have the funds to improve I-70 without tolls. But that didn’t happen.

            We need to increase the fuel tax in a more painful way now AND need to consider tolls if I-70 is going to undergo a massive rebuild. Don’t want tolls? Don’t rebuild the entire length of I-70.

          • samuelstorns says:

            you really think this isn’t going to be general fund?

            Like lottery for schools. They just pull the general funding they already get so there is NEVER an increase. This will be no different.

            Wake up.

          • All buses help reduce the number of vehicles on the roads & highways.

          • JZ71 says:

            Imperceptibly (unfortunately), given current ridership in the region and the state.

  2. samuelstorns says:

    There is a simple solution make government accountable for spending!

    This tollway is just another scam.

    As soon as they get that money for roads government will re-allocate what they already get for roads.

    Just like the lottery for schools scam!

    NO MORE!


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