Fuel Tax Rising?

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association is standing on the sidelines as voters soon decide on a proposed transportation package that would raise fuel and sales taxes.

The association had been considering an advertising campaign against Proposition B on the Aug. 6 ballot. But the group opted to remain neutral, according to the Jefferson City (Mo.) News Tribune.

The transportation proposal would raise the state's motor vehicle fuel taxes by 4 cents to a total of 21 cents a gallon. It would raise the state sales tax by one-half cent to 4.725 cents on a dollar.

In their first full fiscal year, the taxes are projected by the state auditor's office to raise $483 million -- the largest tax increase in Missouri history but still just half of what the transportation department says is necessary to address all its needs.

The ballot proposal is being backed by the Time for Missouri Committee, which expects to spend $3.5 million on broadcast and newspaper advertisements, direct mailings and other means of promoting the taxes. The group consists of contractors, the trucking association, chambers of commerce and other transportation advocacy groups, the report said.

The association is the second major organization to be effected by the tax proposal that is formally adopting a neutral stance. The Missouri Farm Bureau also has said it will stay out of the campaign. Petroleum marketers said several factors contributed to their decision, including a renewed faith in the state Highways and Transportation Commission, new accountability measures for the transportation department and a hope that passage of Proposition B would improve the state's transportation system.

If the group had opposed Proposition B, executive director Ronald Leone had said that advertising placards would have been placed atop fuel pumps by July 4.