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Missouri lawmakers discuss funding for roadways

A month after Amendment 7 failed, Missouri leaders are headed back to the drawing board to find new ways to fund highway improvements.

Amendment 7 was a transportation sales tax that would have replaced and maintained aging roadways.

Sixty percent of Missouri rejected it — but officials aren’t ready to give up yet, saying our state is in desperate need of highway funding.

Thursday night, several Representatives held a public forum to discuss funding ideas.

MoDot’s Director Dave Nichols said Missouri has the seventh largest transportation system in the country, yet 40 other states have more funding for their roads than Missouri.

Representative Stephen Webber started the conversation saying I-70 needs a lot of work done to be safe for drivers, namely adding a third lane.

And he told the other representatives and the public that a substantial amount of money will be needed in order to get our roadways up to par.

Other representatives agreed, including Representative Caleb Rowden who said roads and highways are one of the fundamental responsibilities for the government.

But one representative didn’t want to raise taxes.

“I think Missouri citizens are reasonable to ask why more taxes now? I think Missouri pays enough taxes,” Representative John Wright said. “Missouri is a relatively low-tax state and I think our citizens want to keep it that way.”

Representative Chris Kelly disagreed.

“There’s no little amount of money that will fix this and to do a little amount of money is foolish because we won’t do a big amount in the near future. What they should do is combine all the infrastructure needs into one and go to the people with one big package,” Kelly said.

Many citizens who stood and spoke were in favor of a fuel tax, since 1996 was the last time Missouri’s was increased.

Right now, it’s at 17 cents. Supporters said it could raise the money MoDot needs.

Nichols also agreed, saying it’s a good idea because people drive more fuel-efficient cars and less miles nowadays.

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