Just days ago some Missouri lawmakers were saying an increase in the state’s fuel tax was dead.
It seemed the anti-tax faction of the Republican Party was going to win again. They were going to delay progress when it comes to building and maintaining crucial roads and bridges.
But Thursday brought a big surprise. And it’s a good one for the long-term health of Missouri’s economy.
Led by some GOP members, the Senate tentatively approved a fuel tax increase after several hours of debate. It would go up 3.5 cents a gallon for diesel and 1.5 cents for other products.
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If the higher tax plan makes it all the way through the General Assembly — and that’s still uncertain — the revenue will help the state qualify for federal funds needed to better maintain the state’s large system of roads and bridges.
And let’s face it: Missouri has been particularly irresponsible for years. The state’s general fuel tax, at 17 cents a gallon, is one of the nation’s lowest. It has not gone up in almost two decades.
Last year, voters defeated a three-quarter-cent sales tax increase that would have provided funds for the Department of Transportation.
However, a gasoline tax is an even better way to fund road and bridge needs. The tax puts a burden on the users of the roads, especially big trucks.
Plus, a small fuel tax increase increase is a minor irritant to motorists now paying $2.25 or more for fuel in the state.
Missouri needs more money to take better care of its lengthy road system, and the Senate on Thursday took a step in a positive direction to make that happen.