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Transportation tax increase shaping up as race against time


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A bill that would, upon voter approval, increase the state’s sales tax by 0.75 percent to fund new transportation projects advanced through the senate despite staunch opposition last year and is now waiting for a vote in the Missouri House.

House Joint Resolution 68, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, would place language on the 2014 election ballot for voters to decide whether to increase the state’s sales tax from 4.225 percent by 0.75 percent. The funds would be distributed into a dedicated fund for new roads projects, like the extending and repaving of I-70.

Rep. Dave Hinson
Rep. Dave Hinson

Last year, a similar measure died on the final day in the Senate has conservative lawmakers filibustered the measure with some Democratic support. The bill has created some uncommon allies. Supporting the measure, some rural Republicans and urban Democrats see the measure as a jobs-creating bill that will spur construction jobs and expand infrastructure.

Opponents are comprised from an equally unusual coalition. Some lawmakers stand opposed to the bill on the conservative grounds, calling it hypocritical to slash income taxes while supporting a sales tax. Other members of the Democratic Party have also opposed the measure, saying higher sales taxes disproportionately affect young, poor and minority citizens.

With two of the bill’s staunches opponents in the senate facing term limits, the measure managed to pass the upper chamber. In the House, Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and County, says he’ll bring the measure up for a vote if Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, places it on the House calendar.

Jones did not immediately respond to requests for a comment, but sources in House leadership say caucus leaders have decided to wait on HJR68 until both chambers have had a chance to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of SB 509 — the income tax cut — early this week. As the number of legislative days remaining dwindles into single digits, the bill’s fate will largely hinge on how strongly supporters push for the bill to move along with other legislative priorities.

Jones did not immediately respond to requests for a comment.