JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Amid the risk of losing millions of dollars in federal transportation funding, Missouri lawmakers are considering changes to rules for commercial driver's licenses.
State House members this week gave initial approval to legislation that seeks to comply with federal regulations dealing with learning permits for commercial driver's licenses and with restrictions on texting and using hand-held cellphones while driving a commercial vehicle.
The Missouri Transportation Department says the state could lose $30 million for one year and $60 million annually after that if it doesn't act quickly enough.
The legislation needs another round of approval in the House before it can move to the Senate. Lawmakers have until their mandatory adjournment on May 17 to approve new legislation.
The tax would need approval by Missouri voters and would automatically go to another statewide vote after 10 years. It's expected to generate nearly $8 billion over a decade, with 10 percent dedicated to local transportation needs.
Senators gave the measure first-round approval Wednesday.
The legislation requires the Highways and Transportation Commission to develop a list of projects before the tax goes on the ballot. The commission would prepare an annual status report for the governor and the Legislature.
When the increased sales tax is in effect, Missouri's gas tax would be frozen and existing roads could not be become toll roads.
The Senate began debate Tuesday on legislation that would ask voters to approve a dedicated sales tax for highways and other transportation needs. But some senators expressed concern that the money would go straight to the Department of Transportation without need of legislative approval in the budget process.
The sales tax is estimated to raise nearly $8 billion over 10 years. Ten percent of the proceeds would go to local transportation needs. The tax would be resubmitted to voters after 10 years for potential renewal.
When the increased sales tax is in effect, the gas tax rate would be frozen and existing roads could not become toll roads.
Republican Mike Kehoe, of Jefferson City, and Democrat Ryan McKenna, of Crystal City, scheduled a news conference about the plan Tuesday along U.S. 50, several miles east of the of the state Capitol.
Missouri transportation officials say funding for construction and improvements fell from $1.2 billion to less than $700 million during the past year.
State Transportation Commission Chairman Rudy Farber called earlier this month for a temporary, 1-cent increase in the state sales tax to financelocal and state projects. Officials estimate the tax would generate $7.9 billion over its 10-year life.