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County Commission Communications
A Periodic Column Written by Ed Douglas, Presiding Commissioner

Examining Proposition D
October 16, 2018

On the November ballot, Proposition D asks the voters to increase the state gas tax by 2.5 cents per year for four years. This Proposition D was recommended by the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force, a 23- member committee of legislators, law enforcement, safety advocates, and others who studied the state's transportation woes. Under Proposition D, a large portion of the tax revenue would fund the State Highway Patrol which releases up significant dollars from the Missouri Department of Transportationís current budget ($288 million annually on full implementation) which can then be used to maintain and improve State roads.

This plan would also provide $123 million annually for local governments to use on roads and bridges. Of all gas tax revenues, 15% goes to cities and 15% goes to counties. If this measure is passed, Livingston County would receive $315,000 annually for our road and bridge program when fully phased in, and the City of Chillicothe would receive approximately $150,000.

These funds to Livingston County would be very beneficial to our current bridge program. We have approximately 130 bridges spanning over 20-feet in length that are inspected by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODot) annually. We also have a nearly equal number of smaller bridges under 20-feet in length. We are currently able to build about one new "longer" bridge per year with our existing funds. One out of 130 is not nearly enough to keep up with the expected life of a bridge. If Proposition D passes, we might very well be able to build two new bridges per year, which would be a significant improvement and is greatly needed.

The last fuel tax in Missouri was passed in 1996. Since then, the purchasing power of the current 17 cent State gas tax has effectively dropped to 7-cents due to inflation and the ever improving fuel efficiency. At the same time, the cost of road and bridge building materials, such as asphalt and concrete, have doubled in cost (labor costs have also gone up).

The State of Missouri has the 7th largest system of road miles (33,856 miles) in the United States and yet is 49th in revenue per mile (this is 2nd from the bottom of the list). The State of Missouri also has over 10,000 bridges in the system, 4000 of which were built in the 1950s and the 1960s and currently 922 of those bridges are in poor condition.

According to Patrick McKenna, the Director of MODot, "Missouri is spending more that it is receiving in revenue. This enables us to match federal funding today, but not for long. We are able to maintain the state's roads and bridges in the condition in which they are today, but if want to improve the system, improve safety, reduce congestion, enhance economic development and match future federal funding, additional investment is necessary."

According to data provided by MODot, the average driver currently pays about $30 per month in state and federal transportation taxes and fees. According to MODot, a 2.5-cent increase in the gas tax would increase the average driver's cost by only $1.25 per month. Hidden transportation costs that Missourians may not realize they are absorbing when they sit on congested highways, drive on rough roads or experience vehicle crashes amount to $172 per month for the average driver. Better roads can help lower these hidden costs.

The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, legislative leaders in the State of Missouri and both of our US Senators, on a bipartisan basis, are all very supportive of this issue and have been actively campaigning for it.

I personally had the pleasure to serve six years on the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission; and one thing I believe I learned from that is how much less expensive it to maintain a road that rebuild one. We are getting very close to not being able to maintain many of our roads, which could mean a substantial cost down the road if we are not able to maintain them today.

In order to provide more information to the public we have scheduled a meeting with MODot here in Livingston County to discuss this issue in greater detail and answer questions people may have. This meeting will be on the second floor of the Fire Station at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, October 23. I encourage those who have questions or would like more information to attend this meeting.

I hope this information is helpful to you, and I encourage you to get out and vote on November 6th.

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