MO: Transportation Leaders Have Limited Time to Inform Public About Highway Sales Tax

June 02--WARRENSBURG -- Transportation Advisory Councils must act quickly to prioritize highway needs before voters decide the .75-cent transportation sales tax issue Aug. 5, Missouri Department of Transportation area engineer Michael McGrath said.

"We need to come out with the right set of projects for our area to get the people out there to vote," McGrath said.

The hope is to have a spending plan in place that voters can see by early July, about a month before they vote, he said.

Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission Director Randy White said most people expected the issue to hit the Nov. 4 ballot. The shorter time frame to inform voters "is going to be fun," he said.

Johnson, Lafayette, Pettis, Saline and Ray counties have teamed to work on highway priorities, he said.

"We're a little bit ahead of the game. ... Mike and I can sit down after this meeting to chat about where we are," White said. "But you take into account that we're dancing close to 65, 70 projects, and trying to get some accurate 'scope' to where MoDOT can cost that stuff, and that's a challenge in itself. ... I feel their pain."

If approved by voters, the tax will last 10 years and raise about $5.34 billion. After 10 years, voters will decide whether to renew or let the tax lapse.

White said highway officials will have to keep promises to foster future tax renewal.

"Or we're going to be in a hell of a fix in 10 years," U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said.

"Oh, yes, absolutely," White said.

"We need to deliver in these 10 years so people see what we've done and go to the next 10 years," McGrath said.

Copyright 2014 - The Daily Star-Journal, Warrensburg, Mo.