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St. Louis lawmaker proposes alternative plan for fixing Missouri's roads and bridges

Governor Mike Parson's original plan has been met with skepticism.

March 05, 2019 - 1:29 am
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A member of the Missouri Senate's Conservative Caucus is breaking from Republican Gov. Mike Parson and pitching a new plan to pay for road and bridge repairs.

At issue is Parson's proposal to borrow $350 million to pay to fix 250 bridges across the state , which received a mixed response from fellow Republicans and some Democrats.

Related: Governor Mike Parson Proposes $351M Bond for Missouri Bridges

Opponents have criticized the estimated $100-million in interest the state would have to pay over 15 years and complained that not enough bridges in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas are on the project list.

So Sen. Bill Eigel, a St. Louis-area Republican and member of the newly founded Conservative Caucus, is instead proposing legislation that would ask Missouri voters to amend the state Constitution to block dedicated road funds from being spent on the Highway Patrol and administrative costs.

He also filed a similar bill that wouldn't require voter approval.

Eigel said shifting Highway Patrol and administrative costs would free up as much as $300 million each year to put toward infrastructure, but it would also mean the state would instead have to shoulder those expenses with undesignated general revenue.

That pot of money also funds K-12 public education, health care and other state services.

Eigel said the shift in funding sources would "require the Legislature to take an even harder look at where our other general revenue priorities are."

"I've always said the problem with transportation is not a problem with revenue; it's a problem with prioritization," Eigel said. "We're not willing to make the sacrifices in a record-setting, $30-billion budget so that we can address something that all our constituents say is important, which is our roads and bridges."

A spokesman for the governor's office said Parson is still focused on his funding plan, and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, who is sponsoring legislation to enact Parson's plan, said Eigel's legislation is "dead on arrival."

Schatz said while dedicated road funding includes gas-tax revenue from out-of-state drivers, using general revenue would put the financial burden only on Missouri taxpayers.

"I don't think you can get a consensus majority to accept this proposal," Schatz said.

Eigel's proposal would also earmark half of leftover funds at the end of the year for road and bridge projects.

What's left on the state's bottom line varies from year to year, but the state had about $166 million leftover at the end of last fiscal year. Under Eigel's legislation, that would have meant close to $83 million budgeted for infrastructure.