Missouri Says No to Amendment 7’s Monster Tax Hike for Roads

Amendment 7 would have helped pay for road expansions like this diverging diamond on Stadium Boulevard. Image: ##http://www.modot.org/central/major_projects/Boone740_PublicHearingMay2011.htm##MoDOT##
Amendment 7 would have helped pay for road expansions like this diverging diamond on Stadium Boulevard. Image: ##http://www.modot.org/central/major_projects/Boone740_PublicHearingMay2011.htm##MoDOT##

Last night, Missourians decided overwhelmingly to reject a ballot initiative that would have raised the sales tax by three-quarters of a cent to pay, almost exclusively, for roads. It would have been the largest tax increase in the state’s history.

Voters voted 59 percent to 41 percent to reject the tax.

“It’s difficult to pass a tax increase in Missouri,” said Terry Ganey, spokesman for the opposition group Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions. “It’s impossible to pass an unfair tax increase in Missouri.”

Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions opposed the tax, saying 85 percent of the $5.4 billion it would have raised over 10 years would have gone toward roads, with just 7 percent for transit and a small fraction for local governments. The measure would have made nearly every purchase more expensive for everyone, whether they drive or not, while freezing gas taxes and prohibiting new tolls. That’s essentially a free pass for drivers while the state forces the general population to foot the bill for new roadway capacity the state doesn’t need. Missouri’s cities already have more highway capacity than most, and the state’s population is barely growing.

While the construction industry tried to sell the initiative as a cure for deteriorating infrastructure, a big chunk of the revenues would have gone to interchange enhancements and road extensions.

Though a tax increase this big would have been a tough sell under any circumstances, voters clearly considered this one to be a particularly bad investment.

While nationwide, ballot initiatives to fund transportation win much more than they lose — the success rate for the last election cycle was 79 percent — in Missouri, these measures fail almost as much as they win. The only other statewide tax increase the state has attempted to take on in recent memory for transportation projects also failed. Twelve years ago today, Missourians voted 73 percent to 27 percent to defeat a four-cent gas tax hike, 12.5 percent of which would have paid for transit.

Yesterday, another notable ballot initiative went down in Missouri — a referendum to expand the streetcar failed in Kansas City by a 61-39 margin.

  • Coffee Partier

    Taxes seem to be a dirty word yet no one can find alternatives to pay for things we need. Perhaps we should take a page from the Frank Lunz program and change the word ‘Taxes’ to ‘Revenues’.

    Let’s try it.

    “Last night, Missourians decided overwhelmingly to accept a ballot initiative that would have raised the sales revenues by three-quarters of a cent to pay, almost exclusively, for roads they need. It was the largest revenue increase in the state’s history.”

    I don’t know about you but I feel better already.

  • Alex Brideau III

    “Since 2002, tax increases to support public transportation have won twice as often as they lost in Missouri. … [I]n Missouri, [ballot initiatives to fund transit] fail almost as much as they win.”

    I’ve re-read this a few times, and these statements appear to contradict each other. Can the author offer some clarification?

  • First sentence was left over from an earlier draft. Thanks for catching.

  • James

    Hi Tanya! Thanks for this article. This kind of sales tax increase will probably be coming up more often. The article would have been stronger, however, if it had addressed directly – or at least referenced – MoBikeFed’s serious pro-Amendment 7 arguments:

    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/07/30/will-missouri-voters-go-along-with-the-highway-lobbys-money-grab/#comment-1517175892

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