COLUMBIA, Mo. — A conservative advocacy group’s Missouri chapter is seeking to put what’s expected to be the state’s first gas tax hike in years to a public vote, a state official said Monday.
Jeremy Cady, who heads Americans for Prosperity-Missouri, filed a petition to put the newly passed gas tax increase to voters, the secretary of state said.
Legislators passed a bill last week to gradually raise the state’s 17-cent-a-gallon gas tax to 29.5 cents over five years, with the option for buyers to get a refund if they keep track of their receipts.
Gov. Mike Parson, who has long advocated to put more money toward fixing and maintaining the state’s roads and bridges, is expected to sign the bill into law.
Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill also tried to put a gas tax increase on the ballot so that voters could weigh in and possibly reject it, but that proposal failed 102-48 in the GOP-led state House.
Tax increases are widely unpopular among Missouri voters. Since voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1996 requiring all tax increases over a certain amount to go to a statewide vote, not a single general tax increase has passed.
Most recently, voters in 2018 shot down a 10 cents per gallon tax increase that the Legislature put on the ballot.
Cady’s referendum petition is now open for public comment. If it’s approved, he can start trying to gather the millions of voter signatures needed to get it on the ballot in 2022.
Once fully implemented, the gas tax hike that the Legislature passed could generate more than $500 million annually for state, county and city roads. It’s unclear how much of that governments would get to keep after some people request refunds.
Republicans who opposed the bill argued that the tax hike would disproportionately affect low-income families since the tax rate is the same regardless of income. They also said it might be more difficult for people who don’t own smartphones to track receipts for a refund.
Several framed support or opposition to the gas tax bill as a test of conservativism.