So imagine you’ve got a budget for home improvements. You’ve pared it down to the bare bones. You know exactly how much you can afford and you won’t spend any more than that. Now cut that budget in half. What things do you leave behind? And what are your top priorities?
This exact situation is happening to the Missouri Department of Transportation. With their budget being slashed to just about half, MoDOT is preparing to enter maintenance mode.
Host Brian Ellison talks with Roberta Broeker, the Chief Financial Officer of MoDOT, about the challenges of working with Missouri’s extensive transportation system (larger than Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas combined) and what kind of future construction projects (if any) we can expect in this current budget crisis.
The transportation budget had decreased to just over $700 million by fiscal year 2011 when bond funds approved in 2004 began to deplete, primarily affecting investment in new construction projects.
A 2007 MODOT report suggested an increase in gas taxes, sales taxes, registration and licensing fees, and toll roads to compensate for the budget shortfall. But the projected Statewide Transportation Improvement Program released by MODOT at the beginning of May that covers the department’s projects and goals until 2018 indicated that funds will continue to cover maintenance, but not new projects. MODOT outlined the impact of the $18 million deficit in funds needed for investment, especially on new projects.
A bill making its way through the Missouri Senate this legislative session would have included sales tax on transportation on this November’s ballot to feed into the state’s transportation budget, but that measure was filibustered at the end of the legislative session (see here, here and here). Along environmental lines, the bill that was going through the Senate was the first to include bicycles, walking and public transportation. The Sierra Club of Missouri has also weighed in on the conversation with possible impacts of the approach MODOT is taking to disbursing existing transportation funding.
As of the end of this legislative session, Missouri has an emissions test exception for fuel-efficient cars but no designated lanes, governmental financial benefits or parking benefits other states have implemented. But it seems that Kansas City is becoming more friendly to fuel-efficient cars – the Kauffman Stadium hosted a car show in March at which vehicles’ fuel efficiency was the most important criterion for purchase for many people browsing.
There isn’t a sales tax on fuel efficient cars in Missouri yet, but the thought has occurred to other states strapped for cash. At the end of April, a bill was working its way through the Oregon legislature that would tax fuel efficient cars.
The temporary ballot measure to add a sales tax would have helped make MODOT eligible for federal matching transportation funds, but now that that plan has failed, federal matching funds may not be available if Missouri cannot come up with the state funds to make MODOT eligible for the federal program.