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Attempt to put gas tax increase before voters falters

Americans For Prosperity-Missouri (AFP-MO) abandoned its effort to place the motor fuel tax increase on the ballot in 2022 but still plans to fight the hike next session. 

The referendum petition filed in May sought to place the measure before voters in November 2022, more than a year after the first incremental increase. 

“We were unable to get all the pieces to come together,” AFP-MO Executive Director Jeremy Cady said. “We’ll be looking at tax reforms the legislature can take up that would remove the extra burdens lawmakers added by increasing the gas tax by 75 percent.”

Cady added the referendum could be picked up by another group before the bill’s Aug. 28 effective date. 

The referendum hit a stumbling block shortly after it was submitted: It was rejected by the Secretary of State’s Office for a drafting error but was almost immediately refiled

Shepherded by Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, the legislation will increase Missouri’s fuel tax by 2.5 cents annually beginning in October — bumping it up to 29.5 cents from 17 cents by 2025 and directing that revenue to the state’s roads and bridges. The bill included a rebate program, allowing taxpayers to apply with the Department of Revenue (DOR) once a year to receive a refund for the tax. 

Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill into law last month and touted it as a boon for the state’s infrastructure, a priority for his administration. 

“SB 262 provides vital revenue that will help us fund essential road and bridge projects all across the state,” he said. “Quality roads and bridges increase the efficiency and safety of our roadways, invite travelers and business investment, and save Missourians money.”

By the time the increase is fully implemented, the tax increase would generate more than $513 million before refunds, according to an estimate from the Department of Revenue (DOR). 

The measure saw pushback within the legislature as well: Both chambers held extensive debate before passing the bill with House members attempting to attach their own referendum amendment on the floor. 

Similar tax increases were proposed on the ballot in 2014 and 2018, but neither passed.