Stidham, who is a member of the Transportation Blue Ribbon Committee, said a public meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 29, at 10 a.m. at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. He said he hopes that residents of the Bootheel will come to the meeting to provide input into what direction the state needed to move to fund transportation in the future. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) projects that by 2015 the department will face deficit spending to maintain the current level of transportation in the state.
Stidham said the majority of state funds for transportation come from a 17-cent per gallon gasoline and diesel tax. That level taxation places Missouri 43rd in the nation for gas taxes and 39th in diesel taxes.
"The gas and diesel tax has changed since 1992," Stidham stated. "We (the city of Dexter) are doing one-third less paving than we did in 1992."
Stidham went on to say that statistics show that the average motorist in Missouri pays $200 per year in gas taxes. He noted that a ton of asphalt cost $21.52 in 1992, and today it costs $59.31. He also said Missouri has 33,702 miles of state roads to maintain, which makes the state the seventh largest in the country. He said one reason the state maintains so many roads is that Missouri incorporated all the "letter" roads into the state system when funding was good and the country was prospering.
"We (the committee) don't have a fix...we don't have a solution," Stidham told those present. "We are asking people to come forward and speak at the forum."
Stidham said some of the ways being discussed to fund transportation are a sales tax, use taxes, toll roads and increased licensing fees. He added that an increased fuel tax was not the answer, though it might be a "short term fix." He said technology is changing, with vehicles getting higher gas mileage and using alternate energy sources. He said it would probably take a combination of funding mechanisms.
"Are you paying the same for your vehicle, your home or other things that you did in 1992?" Stidham asked.
He reviewed how important all kinds of transportation were to the economy of the state. He said it was not just roads, but mass transit, river ports and aviation that were underfunded. He pointed to traffic congestion on Interstates 44 and 70 as reasons that something had to be done about future funding and noted that truck traffic is expected to double by 2030. These main arteries must be expanded to handle the traffic flow. He said some proposals called for making these interstates six lanes, with a dedicated lane for semi-trucks.
"How much do you use the roads?" Stidham challenged those present. He said residents of the state need to consider how the state is going to fund transportation, or face deteriorating roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructures.
Mike Marshall, alternate committee co-chair with the Delta Regional Authority, stated, "People are against more taxes, but they expect more services. Something has to give."
Marshall said that Congress was looking at cutting and eliminating the authority.
"We are on the chopping block," he stated.
Marshall noted that Delta Regional Authority funds can
be used to match other federal funds, which is unique.
"DRA is willing to help local governments with local matching funds, so don't give up on federal funding because you don't have the local match," Marshall said.
The BRPC board approved a 2012-13 budget that showed $472,702 in revenues and $426,219 in expenditures. The biggest income contributors were $95,200 for fiscal administration and dues, $60,100 from economic development grants and revolving loan funds and $79,500 in transportation funds.
BRPC Executive Director Steve Duke said Dudley had received a $1.4 million water and wastewater USDA grant for improvements there. He also reported that the Broadband Committee had completed its work and the findings had been presented to the state. He said the next step would be implementation. Duke reported that BRPC had $58,917 in its revolving loan account and that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had funds in a revolving loan fund to administer a program to help rural residents with on-site wastewater improvements, which was for improving septic tanks. More information is available at the BRPC office in Dexter, area city halls, and county health departments. Duke said there was no seed money to begin the program, but funds were supposed to become available sometime in July.