Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has once again thrown his support behind a fuel tax increase in order to fund highway improvements.
Speaking Thursday to host Steve Kraske on KCUR's to Date, Nixon says he hopes a bill pre-filed this month by Sen. Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff) "gets to his desk."
"It doesn't solve the whole problem, but it's clearly a step in the right direction," Nixon said. "So I hope Sen. Libla's bill gets out of the House, gets to the Senate and then gets to my desk."
Libla's measure aims to increase the state's fuel tax by 1.5 cents per gallon and the tax on diesel fuel by 3.5 cents per gallon, an increase Nixon says is small enough to avoid conflicting with the state's Hancock Amendment, which requires many tax increases to be put before a public vote.
Nixon says the state needs highway improvements and that a fuel tax would be a 'down payment' on the future of Missouri's roads. Yet, Republican leadership in Jefferson City has recently hinted a fuel tax increase is unlikely to gain traction in the 2016 session.
Here are some highlights from Gov. Nixon's interview with Steve Kraske:
On if an I-70 toll road should remain 'on the table'
In the last five years, we've trimmed the Missouri Department of Transportation by over 1,000 employees, closed county offices, closed county sheds. We've done the hard work. And it's a leaner organization. Now, with these additional dollars, they will go straight into highway improvements, and we need them.
I think [an I-70 toll road] should stay on the table. That has to be one of the options. Eighty cents for every dollar that would pay for it would be paid by out-of-state drivers. That's a really efficient way for a cross-country road, used by truckers and others, we'd be able to build something at a relatively low cost to Missourians.
On ethics reform in an election year
As we approach the session, I'll get more specific. We'll lay out the way we ought to go. I don't want to use the perfect for them to use an excuse to do nothing. At the beginning, I'd like them to aim high. We need to get something done. We haven't delivered much, and I have only 390 days to go.
An election year is a good year to get this stuff done. If you can keep these issues in front of the public when people are running for office and folks are talking about it in their districts, it puts accelerant to getting it done. We're going to press real hard.
On race relations in the state
What happened at Mizzou and at Ferguson: there's a whole generation that's wondering what their future is, African-Americans and others. They're nervous. They want to be pioneers in making sure they get equality, and I want Missouri to be a leader. After Ferguson, we didn't put our head in the sand. I appointed a commission, we redid the municipal court laws, we did the post commission for police training. We are embracing the challenge because I don't want to risk people thinking Missouri is a place that's unwilling to talk about diversity and unwilling to be on the cutting edge of having a diverse workforce.
Kyle Palmer is the morning newscaster and a reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can find him on Twitter, @kcurkyle.