Tuesday's Transportation Committee took up the proposal for a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund road and bridge building. The proposal would be presented to the voters for their approval, as all tax increases are. The idea in a nutshell is, that our fuel tax, which funds the lion's share of road and bridge money, is shrinking every year. As we become more and more fuel efficient, the tax dollars from diesel and gasoline purchases get smaller each year. We have now reached the point where there isn't enough coming in to do the job. Remember, Missouri has 30,000 miles of paved roads and 1,000 bridges. That is more than Illinois and Kansas combined! MoDot last year closed many facilities and eliminated hundreds of salaries in order to streamline their operation and has no plans to expand if the tax issue passes. They have concluded that their operation can continue to run well with a reduced force. If we wished to simply increase our fuel tax to make up the difference, it would require an approximate additional 45 cents per gallon. The other option is toll roads, and that doesn't appear to be a good way to go. The tax would provide money for the counties also which makes it more saleable. There is a 10-year limit on the proposal and then it would need to be approved again by the voters. I guess we'll have to wait and see if it gets to the ballot now.
My subcommittee on Child Abuse Reporting and Emergency Removal met last week also. We had two directors from Children's services there to give us an explanation of how the system works and answer questions from the committee. We are now going to study the information they supplied us with and meet again to ask additional questions. They also plan to take us to the phone center where we can watch the process work in person. We all concede that this investigation is going to take time and we have to be patient as we explore the workings of a very complex system. This is going to be hard for me to do, as I want the system fixed now! I also had a very productive meeting with Kelly Schultz from the Child Advocate's office. She has some great suggestions and we may incorporate some of the questions we discussed in the next meeting with the Department.
Wednesday morning, I got my first taste of Federal Mandates. As Chairman of the Workforce Committee, it falls on me to introduce the Federal Mandate bills. These bills are necessary in order to comply with new Federal Regulations, which seem to be multiplying every year. If we don't include the new regulations into our Missouri laws, the Feds cut the amount of subsidies for any number of programs. If this sounds kind of like blackmail, that's because it is!
When I asked the Liaison for the Department of Labor to explain the mandates, she was almost as confused as I am. One thing is for certain, there are more coming.
In Professional registration, I introduced my Fire Sprinkler Bill again. This bill is merely the certification necessary to implement a bill passed nearly 5 years ago to insure that fire sprinkler systems are installed in nursing Homes. Unfortunately, there are several special interest groups that want the bill to include some things and exclude others. It ought to be very simple to pass such a necessary bill, but sometimes the simplest things become the most complex.
Finally, we passed the Tax Amnesty bill and sent it to the Senate for their approval. This bill gives Missouri taxpayers who owe back taxes the opportunity to pay them now and all interest and penalties will be waived. It looks like a good plan to generate some much-needed revenue and give taxpayers who have fallen on bad times a chance to avoid the costly penalties. Believe it or not, the Governor LIKES this bill! Much more is coming this week. I'll keep you posted. Until then, I am and remain, in your service.