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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Highway tax plan will be a tough sell

Thursday, May 23, 2002

State officials will have a hard time, in my opinion, convincing Missouri taxpayers to fund $511 million in new transportation dollars with higher taxes on gasoline and a sales tax increase. That is not to say that Missouri voters will not approve the proposal on the August ballot. But from my standpoint, it will not be an easy sell.

There is universal agreement that Missouri roads and bridges are in need of substantial repair and improvements. But those improvements cost money and lots of it. The state is facing a budget crunch, as everyone knows, so money is tight to begin with. So to address the transportation needs, voters must first approve the $511 million tax plan.

For starters, many Missourians feel cheated that earlier tax increases for transportation did not adequately address the problems. You can go back a decade or more and find broken promises in what was proposed and what was accomplished. Those memories linger in the minds of Missouri voters.

If the tax plan were very specific and detailed exactly what improvements would be made with this $511 million price tag, Missouri voters might be more receptive. But vague promises of improved highways and bridges will not get the job done. Some of us in rural areas often feel that the lion's share of the dollars are siphoned for urban projects. And we know full well that our needs are just as great. Without those specifics, I am doubtful of the success of a tax hike.

It will take true leadership from Gov. Bob Holden to pass this tax package and Holden has little reputation for leadership. The truth is it will take much more than Holden expressing his support for the tax idea. It will take legislative and transportation leaders fanning across the state with ample details to sell the idea. Anything short of an all-out approach will prove unsuccessful.

As a newspaper, we will support the new taxes only if our region of the state is recognized and some of our needs met. Otherwise, we cannot and will not recommend voting in favor of an idea that leaves us with crumbs while the cities enjoy the cake.

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