A bipartisan group of Missouri lawmakers announced legislation last week to raise the state sales tax by one cent with the aim of raising $8 billion over the next decade for transportation.

Voter approval would be needed if lawmakers pass the measure. The funds would support transportation projects overseen by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, with about 10% going to local cities and counties.

Under the proposal, the state’s gas tax would be frozen at its current rate and the conversion of existing roads into toll roads would be barred. A recent transportation task force said an infusion of $600 million to $1 billion was needed annually to meet needs.

Momentum is building for new borrowing to support general infrastructure and transportation in the triple-A-rated state, with lawmakers saying now is the time to capitalize on Missouri’s top credit marks, low debt levels, sound budget and favorable interest rates.

Several proposals have been floated for either a new general obligation bond-supported state building program or transportation borrowing. A special House panel is meeting to try to hash out a plan.

Gov. Jay Nixon has suggested that he supports a new, targeted GO bond program but may want to tackle transportation funding separately next year, according to published reports. The state has nearly exhausted all of its voter-approved borrowing capacity and the highways commission has hit its limit based on available revenue.

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