Joseph Miller

On Tuesday, voters across Missouri cast ballots on many different local issues. Most had to do with bond issuances and local board elections, but in Foristell (located in Saint Charles County), residents voted on transportation funding.

The idea that a Missouri city would vote on a tax increase to fund transportation is not news in and of itself. After all, virtually all cities and counties already use property and sales tax levies to fund various types of transportation. But Foristell did not vote on a property or sales tax, it voted on a fuel tax.

As we’ve written before, Missouri cities and counties can impose local fuel taxes, as long as tax proceeds are spent exclusively on roads, which is what Foristell’s 1 cent diesel fuel tax would have done. Fuel taxes can be a fair and economically sound way of raising funds for local road spending.  Those who benefit most from the roads pay more for them, and driving is not subsidized by shoppers or homeowners. Moreover, legal protections in Missouri guarantee that money raised via fuel taxes must be spent on roads, which reduces the likelihood that money is wasted on pet projects.

In Foristell, 65% voted for the fuel tax, but that was not enough because (unlike other forms of transportation funding) local fuel taxes require a 2/3rd majority to pass. The need to obtain a 2/3rd majority for a local fuel tax levy, but only a simple majority for property or sales tax increases, is likely a large reason why no local fuel taxes exist in Missouri.

Foristell’s fuel tax proposal failed. And that may be a good thing, as this specific proposal appears to have been targeted at unsuspecting truckers making a quick stop in Foristell. However, local fuel taxes are in general an option worth considering. If other localities are truly in need of more money for roads, they could try local fuel taxes before attempting to push for sales or property tax increases.

About the Author

Joseph Miller
Policy Analyst
Joseph Miller was a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute. He focused on infrastructure, transportation, and municipal issues. He grew up in Itasca, Ill., and earned an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a master’s degree from the University of California-San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.