Four new bills proposed for the spring legislative session are aiming to increase Missouri's motor fuel tax for the first time in more than two decades.

The state's tax stands at 17 cents per gallon, one of the lowest rates in the country. In 2018, Missouri voters rejected Proposition D, a ballot initiative to increase the tax.

Proposition D would have bumped the tax up by 2.5 cents per year for four years. Fifty-four percent of voters opposed the increase, compared to 46% who supported it, according to previous Missourian reporting.

What would the bills do?

If passed, three of the four bills would put a motor fuel tax increase on the ballot.

House Bill 1476, sponsored by Rep. Joe Runions, D-Grandview, would raise the tax to 19 cents per gallon in 2021, 21 cents per gallon in 2022 and 23 cents per gallon in 2023.

House Bill 1477, sponsored by Rep. Steve Butz, D-St. Louis, would raise the tax by 10 cents over five years, at a rate of 2 cents per year.

Senate Bill 539, sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla, D-Poplar Bluff, would raise gasoline taxes to 19 cents per gallon in 2021. The tax would adjust each year for inflation after implementation. Libla sponsored a nearly identical bill during last year's session, which did not become law.

All three would trigger the Hancock Amendment, a constitutional amendment that requires all tax increases over a certain amount to be voted on statewide. That same amendment is why voters saw Proposition D on their ballots.

House Bill 1433, sponsored by Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, would not trigger the amendment because the revenue generated falls below the threshold outlined. Kendrick said he views his bill as an intermediate solution, not a final fix. Under the bill, the motor fuel tax would increase to 19 cents per gallon in January 2021 until Dec. 31, 2030. It would then decrease to 18 cents per gallon.

Funding Missouri's infrastructure

Kendrick's bill also includes a $450 million bond to help the Missouri Department of Transportation repair road infrastructure. Kendrick said the tax would generate around $60 million a year, which would be used to pay off the bond over a 10-year period.

"We have significant long-term issues with MoDOT's funding," Kendrick said. "Missouri is in a situation where we've run our transportation reserve fund fairly low, and we have one of the lowest fuel taxes in the nation."

MoDOT estimates a total of $825 million in unfunded annual transportation needs that it considers high priority, spread out across maintenance, improvements and investments.

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