by Collin Reischman
A Blue Ribbon commission, established by former House Speaker Steve Tilley to examine the transportation needs of Missouri, held a press conference in the Capitol building on Tuesday, January 8 to release their report to the public.
Former State Senator Bill McKenna served as co-Chair to former House Speaker Rod Jetton, and introduced the findings to the press. According to McKenna, the commission identified 5 areas of emphasis:
1. Maintaining the current MODOT system.
2. Transportation is more than roads and bridges and should include discussions of ports, rails and pedestrian needs.
3. Safety is extremely important for drivers and workers.
4. Revenue spent on development for transportation needs attracts necessary jobs.
5. Hundreds of road and bridge projects around the state are in need of completion.
“I believe we have got to look at options for raising revenue for MODOT,” Jetton said at the conference. “The first reason is safety, both for our drivers and our workers and the second is of course jobs.”
Jetton cited MODOT’s 20 percent reduction in personnel and $500 million dollar spending cuts, as a sign the department was serious about streamlining their costs and improving quality.
The report does not, however, make any official recommendations or call for any specific actions on the part of the legislature or the Governor’s office.
“We laid out the need, we wanted all the members to approve of the end result and plenty of us had different ideas on how to get there,” current Speaker of the House Tim Jones told reporters. “We laid out many scenarios to lead, and we leave the solutions and the leadership to the legislatures and the executive branch.”
Jones emphasized the reason the report lacked a specific call for action was that the commission itself was divided on what action could raise the necessary revenue. McKenna, speaking about his own preferences, said he felt a sales tax would be the “best and simplest” way to raise the money needed. However the size and nature of the increase would have to be placed before the electorate, who McKenna said might not be open to tax increases in the current political climate.
“There are plenty of options to raise the money we need,” said Joe DeLong, committee member and founder of DeLong’s Inc., a fabricated steel manufacturer based in Jefferson City. “Missouri is falling behind, the 17 cent gas tax hasn’t been raised once since 1992 and that’s just one idea. If Missouri raised the sales tax by 1 percent thy would still be competitive with surrounding states.”
The report will be available to the members of the House and Senate, as well as the governor’s office, according to Jones.
Collin Reischman can be reached by emailing Collin@themissouritimes.com
Editor’s Note: Rod Jetton the President of The Missouri Times L.L.C.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.