JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An attempt to gradually increase Missouri’s motor fuel tax rate for the first time in more than two decades passed the Senate Thursday.
SB 262, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, would increase Missouri’s fuel tax by 2.5 cents annually for the next four years. Currently, Missouri implements a gas tax of 17 cents per gallon, but Schatz’s bill would increase it to 29.5 cents by 2025. The funds would go toward maintaining the state’s roads and bridges, a major focus of both Gov. Mike Parson’s administration and Schatz’s time in the statehouse.
“If we want to go back to gravel roads, that’s a solution — but I’m a forward-thinking business person and I see the greatest asset we have in this state is our transportation,” Schatz said. “I do think we can make improvements to it, but the only answer to the question is the motor fuel tax, to increase the funding mechanism designed to maintain the system.”
Schatz’s substitute also 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, supplying data on the number of gallons purchased, information on the seller and purchaser, and more. The program was inspired by a similar policy enacted in South Carolina.
The bill would also establish the Electric Vehicle Task Force within DOR tasked with analyzing the impact of electric vehicles on transportation funding.
Sen. Bill Eigel, who sponsored the tax cut bill voted down by the body this week, held court with Schatz during the early hours of Tuesday’s debate.
What a difference 18 hours makes. Missouri Senate went from debating $1.8 billion tax cut to $400 million tax hike. #moleg.
— William Eigel (@BillEigel) March 9, 2021
“The government here in Jefferson City has never had more money,” Eigel said. “Our balances have never been bigger in the state of Missouri: Our general fund balance is at a record level, our state budget is at a record level, our support from the federal government is at record levels. Any contention that there’s a part of that government in Jefferson City that doesn’t have enough money seems woefully out-of-touch.”
The bill dominated Tuesday afternoon’s session, spending around 6 hours before the body prior to its placement on the informal calendar. A new substitute removing one year from the hike as well as a sunset on the rebate program was quickly perfected on the floor Wednesday.
An emergency clause was also adopted Thursday.
Schatz also sponsored a constitutional amendment with a similar hike, putting it in the hands of Missouri voters in 2022 if it passes through both chambers. Similar attempts were proposed on the ballot in 2014 and 2018, but neither passed. This version was referred to the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee Wednesday.
This story has been updated. It was originally published on March 9.