U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) Tuesday criticized state lawmakers for failing to pass a transportation bill, while previewing federal legislation to improve the nation’s infrastructure. KSMU’s Scott Harvey has details.
McCaskill said the U.S. transportation system is deteriorating, especially in Missouri, calling the state’s $600 million construction budget to oversee 33,000 miles of roadways a “recipe for disaster.”
“We cannot have a strong economy in Missouri if we do not have an ongoing commitment to investing in our highways, our bridges, and even our lochs and dams, and projects on our great rivers,” McCaskill said.
The Democratic Senator says she supports Republican State Senator Mike Kehoe’s bill that allows voters to decide on a one-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects. The proposal, which passed the Missouri House, was blocked by other Senate Republicans in the last week of the session. McCaskill mocked lawmakers for focusing too much time on other issues.
“They’re busy. They’ve got Sharia Law and Agenda 21 and nullification of federal laws that they can deal with, but not adequately funding education or transportation in this state. So if it goes on the ballot, hopefully we can all work to get it on the ballot, and let the voters decide.”
The transportation sales tax, if approved by voters, would expire after 10 years, with a percentage of the funding to go toward counties and cities. It would also bar toll roads on existing highways while the tax is in effect.
On the federal level, McCaskill says she’s teaming with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to streamline the permitting process, by making any project more than $25 million easier to get from the drawing board to digging dirt.
“And the way you do that is you cut back on how many different agencies have to approve it, you put deadlines on the approval process, you shorten the window for approval processes, you make it much simpler for permitting approval,” McCaskill said.
Citing a recent report by USA Today, McCaskill says Missouri has the fourth most structurally deficient bridges in the nation at over 3,500, including over 40 in Greene County, and that the state is in the bottom 10 in terms of revenue for infrastructure needs.