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Voters to Decide Road Funding Issue, Direction for Missouri

Mona Shand

 

ST. LOUIS – Missouri voters will decide next week whether to pass the largest sales-tax increase in the state’s history to fund road projects, but some environmental advocates feel the proposal is a dead-end street.

Chloe Ames, a Washington University student and Sierra Club intern, relies on public transportation to get around St. Louis, and said she feels Amendment 7 – which would levy a temporary sales tax of .75 percent for the next 10 years – won’t move the state toward a cleaner, healthier future.

“I want to live in an area that my children can go outside and play and breathe clean air and not have to worry about getting asthma from just kicking a soccer ball around,” she said, “or somewhere where they can use public transit.”

Amendment 7 supporters say the state needs the roughly $480 million the tax would generate annually to repair roads and highways. Right now, the state constitution states that transportation projects are to be paid for only with gasoline taxes, sales taxes on vehicle purchases and vehicle license fees.

Ames said she believes it’s important to consider the unintended consequences of investing in highways, rather than looking for ways to improve and enhance public transit options.

“That will also increase urban sprawl, which destroys productive farmland,” she said, “It creates more pollution in that way, because people therefore need to drive more to get from place to place.”

Opponents of the sales tax say it would be added on top of existing state and local taxes and that the poor, many of whom don’t have cars, would bear the largest burden as a percentage of their income.

Amendment 7 will be on the Aug. 5 statewide ballot. Its text is online at sos.mo.gov.

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