COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Associated Industries of Missouri is currently holding their annual Tax, Business, and Manufacturing Conference, and legislators had a chance to speak about Missouri’s roads and the tax situation of the state Thursday night in Columbia.
Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, and Chairman of the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission Stephen Miller spoke at length about their efforts to bring more revenue to the state’s highway system while Sens. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summitt, and Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, as well as Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, talked about their efforts to curb overreach by the Department of Revenue when it came to taxation.
Libla spoke on the difficulties of getting legislation on road funding through the General Assembly, among other things
“The bill I was working on did not get brought back into the full senate because of a filibuster that lasted for days,” he said. “The bottom line is we’re operating with 20th century funding in the 21st century, and I don’t know how anybody believes that’s going to work.”
The senator said the lack of a coherent funding plan for the state’s roads and bridges would come hurt the state in the future.
“We talk about the federal government not having energy policy, well, you live in a state that does not have a transportation funding policy,” he said to those in attendance. “This is where it’s really going to come to bite us: we’re going to be having less bidders at contracts.”
He continued talking about construction companies from Missouri that had gone to work in Iowa and Arkansas and preferred working there in part because Missouri offered them no contracts to construct new roads.
“When you don’t have competition, that $1 million bridge becomes a 2 million dollar bridge,” Libla said.
Miller, who has been a massive proponent for increased funding, reiterated that while his commission and the Missouri Department of Transportation had done as much to make the department as efficient as possible, their hands were still tied in getting those essential funds.
“We went through a dramatic downsizing and tried to treat government as private business and make it as lean and mean as we could,” he said. “We’re not involved in determining how transportation is funded. We are in a funding crisis in Missouri… and it endangers the economic vitality of the state.”
When Dixon, Kraus and Koenig took the stage, they talked tax policy in Missouri. Each of them talked about the work they have done in the past few years to cut down on tax abuses by the executive branch.
Dixon called for a wholesale change to the tax code in place.
“Our sales tax code is like Swiss cheese,” Dixon said. “We need to melt it down and start over.”