Missouri voters once again reject gas tax increase to improve roads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri voters have spoken. They won't shell out any extra tax money for gas.

On Tuesday, they voted down Proposition D, which would have increased the gas tax by 10 cents over four years. The additional money would have gone towards improving Missouri's roads.

Earl Wilson is a tow truck driver who voted against Prop D.

"When you add it up at the end of the week or the end of the month, you see the difference in the prices, so it tears us up," Wilson said.

Wilson and the majority of voters decided against the gas tax increase in Proposition D. It would have raised the tax 2-and-a-half cents each year for four years.

Had it been approved, this is what the increases could have looked like.

  • July 2019 = 19 ½ cents
  • July 2020 = 22 cents
  • July 2021 = 24 ½ cents
  • July 2022 = 27 cents

The current rate is 17 cents per gallon of gas. It's been the same since 1996. The tax revenue would have gone to improving roads and bridges.

"Considering the fact that the gas prices are already outrageous, I think they could find other ways to come up with money to fix the roads," Wilson said.

Money would have gone to the State Road Fund, which supports the Missouri State Highway Patrol. MoDOT is funded from the same pot, and so the money would be freed up for road projects.

Lawmakers said it would have generate $288 million per year for the Missouri State Highway Patrol and $123 million per year for local governments for road work.

Crosby Kemper, Director of the Kansas City Public Library, says he planned to vote for Prop D but decided against it at the last minute.

"I just said this is crazy," Kemper said. "This is very badly written. I don't know why this says it`s for law enforcement, but it`s supposed to be for roads."

But it's too late to change the language this time around.

"As usual at the state level, we tend to make this more complicated than they should be," Kemper said. "I think it would have passed and it failed I believe because it was unclear that it was actually going to go for roads. It says it’s for law enforcement. It talked about other things, the Special Olympics. It was a very confusing ballot entry."

But some drivers are disappointed Prop D didn't pass.

"I feel like Prop D, if it passed, would have been great for improvements on the road," said Angela Lewis Thompson, who voted for Prop D. "Lord knows, we need that extra help due to winter coming in with ice and snow that creates pot holes."

Thompson would have gladly paid more at the pump to avoid spending money on damage from potholes.

MoDOT said with the tax at the same level, 17 cents, they'll struggle to do their best to meet the tax payer requests for improvements.

"It will make the trade off conversation a little tougher when we decide which project gets funded and which one has to wait," said Brian Kidwell, MoDOT District Engineer for the Kansas City Region. " We constantly hear from people that want more. They want new interchanges. They want smoother pavement. They want more reliable travel to and from work."

MoDOT's Director Patrick McKenna issued this statement on Prop D:

“We are disappointed that Proposition D failed, but the people of Missouri have spoken, and we respect that. Our top priorities are safety and taking care of what we have, and that is where we will continue to focus our attention. We will continue to do the best we can with what we have for as long as we can. Setting priorities among the many equally important transportation projects will be a tough job with limited resources, but we’ll continue to work closely with planning partners, local communities and customers to address Missouri’s most pressing needs.”