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Missouri House Democrats criticize plan to borrow for roads

March 12, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A top Democratic lawmaker Monday said Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s plan to borrow $350 million to repair bridges across the state is a “nonstarter.”

Rep. Kip Kendrick, the top Democrat on the influential House Budget Committee, told reporters that House Democrats generally oppose using un-earmarked general revenue to fund infrastructure.

Road and bridge work has previously been funded primarily through the state’s gas tax, federal funding and fees.

Under Parson’s plan , the state would repay the $350-million loan with general revenue in $30-million-a-year payments over 15 years. The state would owe an estimated $100 million in interest.

“It’s no disrespect to the governor, he wanted to put a proposal out there that started the conversation,” Kendrick said. “I just think that proposal is a nonstarter.”

House Democrats have limited power in Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature. Their opposition is notable because it comes as other factions of lawmakers are also moving away from Parson’s plan and shifting to other possible sources of infrastructure funding.

Republican House Committee Chairman Cody Smith instead pitched setting aside $100 million in general revenue each year for road and bridge work, a plan that earned support from the Senate’s Conservative Caucus.

Kendrick said that plan won’t provide enough money to adequately address infrastructure maintenance for the state. He urged colleagues to consider long-term funding solutions, such as toll roads or asking voters again to increase the gas tax.

Kendrick said $100 million is significant, but “it does not get anywhere close to addressing this long-term problem.”

Parson spokesman Steele Shippy said the governor is sticking by his priority to fund infrastructure but noted that voters last year defeated a proposal to raise the state’s 17-cent gas tax to 27 cents per gallon.

“The people of Missouri spoke loud and clear about their position on an increase in the fuel tax,” Parson said. “The governor believes it’s our job as leaders to find solutions to meet our critical infrastructure needs.”