Home » Missouri »Politics/Policy »Taxes »Transportation » Currently Reading:

Readers: To Fund MoDOT Missouri Should Increase Fuel Taxes, Toll I-70, & Revise Our Open Container Law

October 7, 2015 Missouri, Politics/Policy, Taxes, Transportation 5 Comments
The floor of the Missouri House of Representatives, 2011
The floor of the Missouri House of Representatives, 2011

The Missouri Department of Revenue needs more money, voters rejected a sales tax. The Missouri legislature continues to ignore the most obvious solutions. Readers in the Sunday Poll put the options in the right order:

Q: Of the following, what should Missouri do to solve MoDOT’s funding shortfall: (check all that apply)

  1. Increase fuel taxes 35 [38.04%]
  2. TIE  20 [21.74%]
    1. Revise Missouri’s open container law so we can receive additional federal highway dollars
    2. Toll I-70 between metro STL & metro KC
  3. Increase vehicle licensing/registration fees 13 [14.13%]
  4. Increase sales taxes 4 [4.35%]
  5. Nothing, stay the course 0 [0%]

Our fuel taxes are among the lowest in the country and our neighboring states — this is obvious.  Another is changing Missouri’s open container law — I mean actually having one:

Although a driver is prohibited from consuming alcohol while driving, Missouri has no general open container law for vehicles, a characteristic which Missouri shares only with the states of Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Mississippi, Virginia, and West Virginia. Any non-driving vehicle passenger thus is permitted to possess an open container and consume alcohol in Missouri while the vehicle is in motion, although 31 smaller municipalities, the largest being Independence and St. Charles, have local open container laws. The metropolises of St. Louis and Kansas City have no local open container laws, and thus the state law (or lack thereof) governs. This makes it possible for a passenger to drink legally through the entire 250-mile (400 km) trip across Missouri on Interstate 70between Downtown Kansas City and Downtown St. Louis, only closing his container while passing through the city limits of Independence, Bates City, Columbia, Foristell, and St. Charles.

As a result of having no state open container laws, under the federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century of 1999, a percentage of Missouri’s federal highway funds is transferred instead to alcohol education programs each year. Since 1999, the Missouri General Assembly has considered several bills which would have created open container regimens satisfying the federal law, but each one “failed due to weak legislative support.” Anheuser-Busch leads opposition to enacting a passenger open container law. (Wikipedia)


The federal law encourages states to outlaw open containers by changing the earmarks for transportation funding. Under TEA-21, federal standards require a complete ban on open containers in vehicles, and states not conforming must divert funds from road maintenance into alcohol education, enforcement and crash prevention. The Fed can’t tell states what to do, but they’re not against making this money-backed suggestion.

The rub is about $12 million less each year for road maintenance in Missouri, according to MoDOT spokeswoman Kristi Jamison. The trade-off is somewhat political; Missouri asserts its sovereignty by refusing to overstep the boundaries of private property, and the diverted money helps ameliorate drunk driving problems in the state. “One of the positive benefits is that it also goes to law enforcement to help with DUI enforcements, whether through overtime or equipment to help out,” Jamison says, and adds that the funds also contribute to 500 miles of guard cable on highway dividers. (Vox Magazine)

So millions every year aren’t being used to maintain our roads & bridges because an influential brewer wants to make sure passengers can consume their products?

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mark-AL says:

    Sometimes commonly accepted legislative loopholes and other counter-productive legislative omissions appear to defy common sense, making us wonder seriously about the competence of those whom we have chosen to represent us…but every state has similar problems and equally unfathomable laws and loopholes on the books, and it’s up to the constituency to rattle their sabers to ultimately make changes as they see fit–if they see fit. But the unnamed Influential Local Brewer (who by the way remains a major employer and benefactor in your beloved city) may not be the only face of pressure in maintaining status quo for open containers. Missouri now hosts several smaller and lesser known brewers and distillers, and collectively they also have a loud voice. (Plus it would be interesting to learn how many Missouri legislators might have a few pennies invested in those liquor producing/distribution businesses.) And I’m wondering if Schnucks and Shop & Save might have an interest in the debate. Even Milwaukee-based brewers might be interested. Money always has a voice.

  2. JZ71 says:

    And sometimes there’s nothing wrong with telling the federal government to stick their mandates where the sun doesn’t shine . . . the federal mandate is a classic case of “you can never be too safe”, instead of relying on common sense. As long as the driver is sober, why should the government even care if the passengers are drinking?! And, really, $12 million sounds like a lot, but in the bigger budget, it’s not much.

    The “easy” answer is to just raise the state gas tax by a penny, one cent, every two or three months, for the next five years. NOBODY would even notice, except for the fact that it’s a dreaded “tax increase”. Between inflation and better fuel economy, the tax put in place 20 years ago buys a whole lot less stuff these days.

  3. STL_CS says:

    Thanks for posting your poll to the readers, it is a very important issue that needs action. It also needs a great deal of education for the general public as well as our legislators. While your poll provides some good data, I think the results are very skewed due to the general readership of the website, the name of the website really says it all. I don’t believe you are getting any input from the rural areas of Missouri.

    Regarding the questions in the poll there are some important things to point out with each of the top three response choices that may help educate the readers.

    a. Increase fuel tax – Not much to explain here, other than the fact that just a small increase isn’t going to make progress on repairing our infrastructure. The taxes paid are 17.5 cents to Missouri, and 17.5 cents to federal government. These taxes were last raised in the early 90s and not indexed for inflation, today they worth less than 8 cents each. Just to get back to the purchasing power for the taxes to Missouri they would need an increase of over 10 cents.

    b. Toll I-70 between KC and STL- Key takeaway here is the revenue generated by the tolls likely will only be able to be used along the I-70 corridor. So this won’t fix a problem on I-44, I-55 or Lindbergh Blvd. It will however redirect the maintenance funds spent each year along the corridor over the term of the lease (perhaps 25 – 30 years), which means close to $100M can be used elsewhere.

    c. Revise the open container law – This does not currently offer a benefit to Missouri. Currently Missouri can barely match the existing federal funding for 2016 and 2017, and will not be able to match 2018 federal funding. Missouri would need to increase transportation funding $1 for every $4 of new federal funding. So while this is a good idea, it has no benefit if Missouri can’t increase funding at the state level by either a fuel tax, sales tax or license fee increase.

    Thanks for keeping the discussion at the forefront, it is important to take care of our transportation infrastructure.

    • JZ71 says:

      I’ll repeat – just raise the damn fuel tax! If you try and do it all at once, yes, there will be a lot of resistance. But if it’s structured as a gradual increase, it MAY be an easier “sell” to the voters. I don’t see any big resistance if it were structured as a one cent, one penny, increase that happened every two or three months. Yes, it would take a couple of years to reach a ten cent aggregate increase, but if we kept doing it for 4-5 years, we’d be in decent shape, with 20-30 cents more, per gallon, coming in . . .

  4. Jason says:

    Just a FYI on the open container law. MoDOT still gets that $ but it just has to be spent on activities that combat drunken driving


Comment on this Article: