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Missouri Legislature gives final approval to fuel tax increase

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After more than four hours on the floor, the Missouri House truly agreed to and finally passed a proposed gas tax increase late Tuesday — a victory for Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz. 

The proposal, SB 262, would increase Missouri’s fuel tax by 2.5 cents annually — bumping it up to 29.5 cents from 17 cents by 2025. The funds would go toward maintaining the state’s roads and bridges, a major focus for both Schatz and Gov. Mike Parson

The legislation includes a rebate program: Drivers would be required to apply with the Department of Revenue (DOR) once a year to receive a refund for the tax.

The bill ultimately passed 104-52. While other members opposed raising taxes without input from citizens, Rep. Becky Ruth, the House handler, said the rebate program was a way for taxpayers to essentially vote on the increase. 

“This money, per the constitution, goes directly into our road fund,“ Ruth said. “We wanted to make this fair for all people. If you do not want to pay those taxes, you have the option of getting that rebate and taking your money back. With this bill, the people get to vote every single year.” 

After the bill cleared the House, Schatz said the vote was “better than any of us could have thought” despite House “shenanigans.” 

“I did not want to leave this building after 12 years and not see this problem being addressed,” Schatz said. “We have a glaring problem in front of us and just continuing to ignore it and kicking the can down the road is no longer acceptable.” 

“We came up here to represent our districts, and sometimes that means taking very hard votes but doing the right thing ultimately, and I think that’s what we saw today,” Ruth told The Missouri Times. “It’s doing the right thing and funding our roads and bridges.” 

On the House floor during debate, Rep. Jason Chipman quickly jumped on the bill, denouncing attempts to increase taxes for Missourians and sending forward an amendment to put the issue to the vote of the people — again — if it were to pass.

“The people who wrote this bill don’t care about what the average citizen has to go through; they just want the tax increase,” he said. “This amendment puts it to the voters and asks them if they want to do this — this is what your legislature is putting in front of you, and they’re going to ask every one of us what this means.”

The amendment consumed most of the debate on the floor: Rep. Hannah Kelly backed the amendment early in the conversation, passionately calling on the body to send the provision to the people for approval rather than applying it without their input. 

“I ask you to join me in putting this amendment through — I’m letting the people decide,” she said. “Tonight, I’m saying no to growing government on this floor. If we grow the government in this fashion, I say we send it to the people. I say we should not sell this on the backs of rural Missourians who will never see the money at the end of the day.” 

Dozens of representatives spoke on the bill over the three-hour debate. Several GOP members said they would not vote for the bill itself without the amendment attached while others on both sides of the aisle spoke on the conditions of their districts’ infrastructure and a lack of state investment into roads and bridges. The attempted referendum ultimately failed 48-102. 

The bill was approved after the measure was split in two by a “divide the question” motion. Both halves were adopted by a similar margin, recombining the bill for the final vote. 

The bill saw pushback during its time in the legislature. It was perfected after stalling in the Senate in March with one year knocked off the increase and passed the House Fiscal Review Committee earlier this week 5-3 with Republican members of the committee split. 

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

Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.