Opinion: Conservatives should support Prop D for Missouri roads

  

By Senate Pro Tem Ron Richard

I am writing to explain why conservatives should support Proposition D on Missouri’s November 6 general election ballot. I write as a committed fiscal conservative, one who has worked for years in Jefferson City to cut government waste, hold state agencies to account and oppose tax increases. But I support the gradual 2.5 cents per gallon state motor fuels tax increase in Prop D. Here are my reasons:

1)   Over its four-year phase-in and when fully implemented, the extra 10 cents per gallon will fix our roads and bridges, create jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into our local communities for roads and bridges. That new money will allow Missouri to move to the head of the line to return federal tax money we have already paid to Washington, to fix our roads and bridges back home. If we don’t provide the matching money, other states will do so and receive our money. I’m for Missourians’ money coming back to fix Missouri roads and bridges.

2)   Prop D is a user tax on those who buy fuel to use the roads, not a general sales tax increase. True conservatives prefer targeted user taxes to broad tax hikes. In the case of Prop D, for example, senior citizens who don’t drive won’t pay at the pump. Those who cause wear on our roads will pay.

3)   Our state motor fuels user tax is required by the Missouri Constitution to go into the State Road Fund. The Constitution only allows the State Road Fund to be used for two things – road work by the Missouri Department of Transportation and our cities and counties, and the specific cost of road law enforcement by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. That’s it – unlike general revenues, nobody can mess with this money. It goes where it is promised to go:  roads, streets, bridges, and enforcement of safe road laws.

4)   Missouri hasn’t raised our state motor fuels user tax since 1996. Inflation has eaten away at that basic 17 cents tax, which only has 7 cents of purchasing power today. While steel, concrete, and asphalt have doubled and tripled in cost over the last 22 years, the state motor fuels user tax has lost 60 percent of its value. Any true fiscal conservative knows you cannot stay in business for long with that scenario. MoDOT has slashed its overhead spending, laid off employees, shut down offices and reallocated its dollars to roads and bridges. As one who is suspicious of government, I am convinced MoDOT has its house in order and its leadership is committed to prudent stewardship of this constitutionally protected, regularly audited road and bridge money.

5)   There is no more basic function of government than taking care of our roads, streets, and bridges. There aren’t Republican roads or Democrat roads, just Missouri roads that we all rely on to get to work and to allow safe, efficient travel for school buses, fire trucks, ambulances, police and shipping goods. This is why leading Missouri conservatives, including Governor Mike Parson, Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt have publicly strongly endorsed Prop D.

6)   In addition to being the only Missourian to serve as both Senate President Pro Tem and House Speaker, I am proud to have served as Joplin’s mayor. So I understand what Prop D’s major 66 percent boost in state funding for our counties and cities will mean to local streets, road and bridge priorities set by local leaders to address local priorities. For Newton and Jasper counties and the cities within the counties, it means about $2.4 million in new road and bridge funding, every year, when Prop D is fully phased in.

My conservative friends know the old country saying: “You can’t eat your seed corn.” That means it’s penny-wise and pound-foolish not to protect and take care of your basics, and there is no better example of the basics than roads and bridges.

That is why this conservative is for Prop D, and why every conservative should vote YES on Prop D.