Rep. Galen Higdon has a simple request: He doesn’t want concrete falling on his windshield.
Higdon and other legislators met with a large delegation of regional business and community leaders as part of Great Northwest Day, hosted by the Community Alliance of Saint Joseph. The day started with the guests being honored on both the Senate and House floors. Afterward, they spoke with their local representatives about issues ranging from higher education to the state’s workforce. Fixing Missouri’s ailing transportation infrastructure was a popular topic.
“We are in a crisis, really, as far as state and city streets, so we need to doing something and doing it right away,” St. Joseph Councilwoman Donna Jean Boyer said.
The Senate is currently exploring options to pay for Missouri’s road repairs, including a 1½ increase on the 17-cent fuel tax. But Sen. Dr. Rob Schaaf said he doesn’t support raising the fuel tax without direct consent from voters.
“I don’t support an increase by itself,” Schaaf said. “I would support an increase paired with something structural that would help solve our long-term transportation problem.”
The Community Alliance of St. Joseph, in a packet passed out to the local delegates, noted that Missouri’s gas tax is the lowest out of its neighboring states. Schaaf said the amount needed to fund road repair might be less than projected because low fuel prices have caused a higher purchase volume for fuel.
“So, now it’s projected that we can draw down the federal dollars until 2021 so the crisis has been averted to a degree. However, we do need more funding for the roads,” Schaaf said.
Higdon isn’t just looking at road repairs, but also expansion. He cited the growing part of northern Platte County and the two-lane Missouri Highway 92 as a road that will need expanding in the future.
“You can’t wait, you’ve got to do something,” Higdon said.
The legislature also is mulling Gov. Jay Nixon’s budget proposal, which calls for a 6 percent increase for institutions of higher learning based upon performance standards. Missouri Western State University is one of the most underfunded universities per student.
Schaaf supports increased funding for higher education, but is concerned it might come at the cost of other state programs.
“I’m very concerned about the state of our economy right now and I fear that the budget projection of the governor is a little bit rosy,” Schaaf said. “I think we may see less revenue than what is projected.”