(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) When it comes to Proposition D, it appears that both Republicans and Democrats have found something they can agree on.
"(There was) a lot of gnashing of teeth, said Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, during an appearance in St. Joseph to promote the gas tax increase proposal. "At the end of the day, you do build consensus."
"It's a sensible proposal," said Rep. Pat Conway of St. Joseph. "It's not overly costly and returns money to the locals. That's what swayed me."
Voters will decide the fate of Proposition D, which if passed, would raise the gas tas 2.5 cents pe gallon per year over a four year period. Kehoe's stop in St. Joseph was just one of several he was making during a barnstorming trip across the state to stress how important passing the proposition is to generating more revenue for roads.
"It's been 22 years since we've had an increase in our highway funding budget," Kehoe said. "That's a long time, no matter if you're talking a family budget, a business budget or municipal budget."
After the full 10 cent per gallon tax was implemented in four years, it would generate an estimated $288 million per year statewide, money that Kehoe says could be used to catch up on neglected roads and bridges.
"We've stretched the dollars as far as we could and we're losing about 100 bridges a year on to that deficient bridge list," he said. "So when you start seeing bridge closures and long detours, that's when people will start paying attention. I don't want to get to that point."
In addition to the state funding, another estimated $124 million yearly would go to cities and counties. State figures estimate that St. Joseph would see an expected $1.2 million yearly
Local leaders say the money would be helpful. Missouri currently ranks 49th in motor fuel taxes charged on drivers.
"We compete for jobs, new business along with all the other 50 states." said Patt Lilly, president of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. "If we don't have the infrastructure to serve the needs of business, we simply won't win."
"We have to be able to continually invest in ourselves," said Madison Davis, St. Joseph City Council member. "If we can't invest in ourselves, how can we entice others to do that."
Beyond economic development and the 20,000 jobs that are said would be created by the construction work needed to repair roads and bridges, Kehoe says raising the gas tax is a matter of public safety.
"Missouri has 900 deficient bridges and when we add the counties' and cities' bridges to it, it's about 2,100 bridges. Those are bridges our school buses, ambulances and friends and family are driving on."
The vote on Proposition D will be November 6.
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