JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A House committee has unanimously endorsed a proposal to increase Missouri's gasoline tax, sending the measure to the full House, where some Republicans oppose raising taxes.
The House Transportation Committee voted 13-0 Monday to approve raising the gas tax 12.5 cents during the next five years, resulting in a tax of 29.5 cents per gallon. It would be the first increase since 1996. Missouri's current tax of 17 cents a gallon is among the lowest in the nation.
Rep, Josh Hurlbert, a Republican from Smithville who serves on the Transportation Committee, voted for the bill and said he will support it on the House floor.
"Missouri is the crossroads of the country," Hurlbert said in a statement to 41 Action News. "Investing in our infrastructure and our failing roads and bridges is the purest and most direct way the legislature can promote economic development in our state. I support this investment and hope the legislature will join me."
The bill has bipartisan support.
Rep. Jerome Barnes, a Democrat from Raytown and the ranking minority member on the House Economic Development Committee, said he also will vote for the gas-tax hike.
"I have heard from my district and they are in support for the bill," Barnes said in an email to 41 Action News. "Many are concerned about the poor highways and bridges making it danger for families traveling throughout the state. Good highways are critical for our state’s economic development."
Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, a Democrat who represents District 15 in Clay County, also supports the legislation.
"Missouri has some of the most state highway miles in the country, yet we are 48th in funding per mile," she said in a statement to 41 Action News. "We can see our roads crumbling before our eyes, putting our families at risk and hurting economic development. I support SB 262 as a bipartisan compromise that will begin to address our state’s transportation needs."
Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, who represents District 26, also supports the bill, according to her office.
Bland Manlove acknowledged that raises taxes during a pandemic "is not ideal," but called the bill "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the state’s transportation investment shortfall and enjoys strong bipartisan support" in a statement from office.
Other legislators don't think the bill goes far enough.
Rep. Rory Rowland, a Democrat from Independence representing the 29th District, said the gas-tax hike "should be larger."
Rowland would like to see that budget closed even more, calling the new tax increase what "is possible to do" in this legislative session "but not optimal in my opinion."
"The challenge has been the lack of leadership from state leaders on this issue, which hasn’t happened for years," Rowland said in a statement to 41 Action News.
Support for the gas-tax increase isn't unanimous, especially among Republicans leery of any tax increases.
Rep. Michael Davis — a Republican representing District 56, which includes parts of Bates, Cass and Jackson counties — does not support the bill. He noted that Missouri voters shot down Proposition D, a proposal to increase the gas tax to 27 cents, in 2018.
"I do not support raising the gas tax," Davis said in a statement to 41 Action News. "As a candidate, I ran on a platform of opposing tax increases. I pledged to my constituents that I would vote against these proposals when they came before me."
The Missouri Senate approved the measure in March, with supporters saying the state needs the increased revenue to repair and upgrade a deteriorating infrastructure. The tax was forecast to generate more than $450 million.
The legislation also would allow divers to save their gas receipts and apply for a refund once a year.
Gov. Mike Parson and business and labor groups also support the proposed increase.
House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, has previously said he's against tax hikes. And it is unclear how quickly the proposal could come to a vote, with three weeks left in the session, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.