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Gas Tax Holiday Proposed

August 25, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - House Democratic Leader Jeff Harris, of Columbia, called for Gov. Matt Blunt to include a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel-tax holiday during the legislature's special session, which begins on Sept. 6.

"We anticipate this will be a boom to Missouri's economy and will give consumers a relief at the pump," Harris said at a Thursday news conference. "It's a solution, a two-week trial run to see if we can do something."

The special session can consider only those issues included in the governor's official call. And the governor's office immediately rejected expanding the session to include gas-tax idea.

The governor's top spokesman, Spence Jackson, described the proposal as "a risky scheme" that jeopardizes current highway and road construction across Missouri.

"The highway construction that's going on is definitely helping fuel this economy," Jackson said. "It would put lives in danger - a lot of these road projects are years overdue and it would be irresponsible to stop them right in the middle of completion by diverting this much needed money to other sources."

The Democrats' proposed tax holiday would drop Missouri's gasoline tax to seven-cents per gallon for a two week period -- nine to 12 cents cheaper than neighboring states. Democrats said the tax break would bring more out-of-state commuters to Missouri, boosting general revenue sales and would also save taxpayers an estimated $18.4 million.

The plan also includes a permanent exemption on diesel tax for public school districts that operate their own bus systems. Ethanol was also promoted as a long-term fix to the increasing gas prices.

Jackson said 40,000 new jobs have been created since January with highway and road construction and this proposal would stop this growth. The spokesman said the focus instead should be on a long-term solution.

The Democratic plan also was attacked by the Missouri Transportation Department.

The agency's chief spokesman, Jeff Briggs, said the proposal "would hurt our ability to provide the road and bridge improvements that we've promised to the tax payers. The state fuel tax is the only tax that Missourians pay that goes entirely to road improvements."

Briggs said the proposal would cost the Transportation Department $16.3 million and would cost city and county road improvements $6.3 million.

The special session, called by Blunt, will be used to discuss abortion restrictions and fix a number of errors in laws passed in the regular legislative session earlier this year.

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