Tuesday, June 10, 2014

MO Transpo Tax Part 2: Sales Tax in the City (and County)

Part 2 of 3; Part 1 is here.

While a sales tax may be less regressive than a fuel tax in rural Missouri, a sales tax is still regressive in rural Missouri. In urban and inner-ring suburban St. Louis, the opposite relationship tends to occur. A sales tax is more regressive than a fuel tax in urban/inner-ring suburban St. Louis (though a fuel tax would be regressive, too).

For Missouri communities more urban in character, state sales tax revenue can do things that fuel tax revenue cannot. Missouri gasoline/diesel taxes can only be used for roads, per Article IV Section 30(a) of the Missouri Constitution. Missouri sales tax revenue isn't limited as such, and can be used for any kind of transportation infrastructure such as mass transit, bicycle, pedestrian, river, air, etc. In the Mayor's words, state sales tax revenue provides for flexibility:

Room 200's list of projects submitted to MoDOT takes large advantage of the flexibility afforded by sales tax revenue as opposed to gasoline/diesel tax revenue. Only 25% of the City's "90%" category allotment of revenue ($255 million) would go to road and bridge projects. The other 75% (of $255 million) would go to Complete Streets projects, transit projects, bicyle/pedestrian path projects, airport projects, river port projects and a law enforcement "total transportation center." The City of St. Louis is further projected to receive an additional $2.5 million per year in discretionary, flexible transportation funds. 

In St. Louis County, it's a different story.

After a issuing a statement that the Missouri transportation sales tax issue is "not a top priority" for his administration, the County Executive (at least figuratively) mailed it in to MoDOT. Alex Ihnen's nextSTL piece estimates that approximately 98% of the County's "90%" category allotment of revenue ($841 million) would go to road and bridge projects. It's almost as if the County's "90%" category allotment might as well be gasoline/diesel tax revenue.

Obscured in the story so far has been the fact that these "90%" category county project lists are not final until approved by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission upon presentation by MoDOT's district heads. There was and is still both time and opportunity for a more multi-modal set of projects for St. Louis County.

It appears to me here that City Aldermanic President Reed refers to the County Executive Office's current ability to revise and/or amend the County project list:   
It's anyone's guess as to what, if any, revisions or amendments the County Executive's Office will make to the County list. What's apparent is the lack of an effort to organize public pressure on the County Executive's Office to take a more multi-modal transportation approach that would be in line with the Mayor's Office's approach.

Instead, efforts at organizing the public for "better transportation solutions" are going toward a campaign to mobilize votes against the state-wide measure, 56 days from now, on August 5th.

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