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Missouri voters decide today on transportation sales tax hike

Before members of Congress left D.C. for their annual August vacation district work periods, they did pass a short-term funding measure for the Highway Trust Fund.

That fund provides states with around a quarter of the money they need for road and other transit projects within their borders.

Highway-transit projects government funding sources via Pew Charitable Trusts; Missouri sales tax vote

But given the continual fight over taxes in Washington, D.C. -- and that's a concern when it comes to highway money since the trust funds relies on what some say is a too-low 18.4 cents per gallon gasoline excise tax -- more states are shifting into a higher transportation tax gear.

An Associated Press review found that in the past 18 months, one-fourth of the states have hiked transportation taxes, fees or fines. At least a dozen others are studying options, according to the news service.

Voting on a transportation sales tax hike: One of those states is Missouri, where voters in today's Aug. 5 primary will decide whether they want to increase the state's sales tax to pay for repair of and improvements to the state's roadways.

The Show Me State's current sales tax rate is 4.225 percent.

Missouri_2014_Amendment_7_transportation_tax_sample_ballot_questionBallot question 7 would amend the Missouri constitution to allow for an additional temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent.

The sales tax increase would not apply to medicine, gasoline or groceries. Other "every day" items, however, would see the new tax added at the register.

The new tax money would go exclusively to fund Missouri and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects. Priority would be given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges.

The transportation tax would end after 10 years.

The state's number crunchers say the new tax say it would raise $480 million a year for Missouri's Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund. It also is projected to add $54 million to local government coffers.

Transportation sales tax pros and cons: Advocates of the temporary tax say it's the best way to keep the state's infrastructure from deteriorating further.

Missourians "have reason to dislike the tax, just as they have reason for disliking having to put a new roof on an old house," writes the Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal editorial board. "But the principle is the same: either pay for what needs doing or watch the place collapse."

Among the arguments against the tax hike is that it's regressive. "It's simply not a fair tax," say the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial writers.

"[T]he burden of the sales tax increase would fall most heavily on the poor and working class. … The poorer you are in Missouri, the more of your household income you have to spend on sales and excise taxes."

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, is among the state's lawmakers who are against the sales tax increase.

In general, Missouri voters tend not to like taxes, even with specific, short-term goals. Election watchers say turnout will be key.

The state polls close at 7 p.m. Central time. The ol' blog will update this post when there's an indication of which way the vote is going.

UPDATE: The proposed tax failed.

How about your state's taxes? Would you approve a tax increase to help keep/get your roads in shape? Do you think the federal gasoline excise tax, which has been stuck at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, should be increased to provide more/adequate money to that national funding source?

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