A potential statewide sales tax to improve road conditions gained new life recently, but not everyone thinks the initiative is a good idea.
The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW) is opposed to an initiative petition filed by Missourians for Safer Roads and New Jobs that would establish a one-cent sales and use tax. The proposed tax could raise $8 billion to fund road improvements throughout Missouri. MASW believes the tax is regressive and would affect lower-wage citizens more than their higher-wage counterparts.
“Anytime you create regressive sales taxes hurting the purchasing power of low-wage people you make it harder for people to secure human basic needs like their rent and their utilities. We think this has the potential to make poverty deeper in our state,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, the Executive Director of MASW.
Missourians for Safer Transportation and New Jobs said that since gas taxes are no longer effective, a sales and use tax is the best way to raise the large amount of money needed for road construction throughout the state.
“People are using more fuel-efficient vehicles and a fuel tax simply doesn’t keep up with the wear and tear of the transportation system and it doesn’t allow for the other kinds of infrastructure investments that Missourians want,” said campaign member Jewell Patek.
Mott Oxford suggested other options for raising money for the projects that would have a less negative impact on lower-wage residents, like changes to the state’s income tax system, or creating a refundable tax credit that serves as a rebate for people below certain levels of income. Mott Oxford also argued that while road safety and conditions are important, there are other under-funded areas throughout the state including mental health and education.
The group behind the initiative petition submitted it to the Secretary of State’s office earlier this month is waiting for approval of the petition language. The group will promote the petition and gather signatures in an effort to get the issue on the statewide ballot in May 2014.