Missourians regularly grumble about both their roads and taxes.
So a push to raise Missouri's sales taxes by a penny to pay for widening Interstate 70 and fixing much of the state's highway system has drawn neither quick rejection nor embrace.
"If you avoid acknowledging that (the interstate) is in dramatic need of a rebuild, you're just kicking the can down I-70," said Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Daniel Mehan.
And yet he wanted to see specifics.
"It's worthy of consideration," Mehan said. "You've got to put all the options on the table and pick the one that's right for the state."
Or consider the Associated Industries of Missouri, whose members might profit from road work but who would also be saddled with some of the tax burden.
"We understand the transportation needs are great and additional revenue will be necessary," the group said in a prepared statement. "The voters of Missouri will make the final decision on the type of tax increase, if any, they will support."
The neither-for-nor-against reaction followed a proposal earlier this week from the chairman of the state's transportation commission for a dedicated 1-cent sales tax to confront fund shortfalls for roads, bridges and other infrastructure needs.
The plan calls for the 1-cent sales tax to last 10 years, with hopes of raising an estimated $7.9 billion over the life of the tax.
Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission chairman Rudy Farber said he is seeking a "sustainable, long-term fix for Missouri's transportation problems." He said voter approval would be needed to enact the tax and -- if approved -- to renew it after a decade.
The plan calls for freezing the state gas tax rate and requiring the transportation commission to develop and publish a list of specific projects and timelines before voters would consider approving the sales tax. If the tax passed, the transportation commission then would produce an annual report to the legislature and governor.
The sales tax would exclude medicine and groceries.
Farber said there would about $1 billion set aside for aging Interstate 70, which would include adding an eastbound and westbound lane between Independence and Wentzville near St. Louis. Widening the highway, repaving it, and rebuilding bridges and interchanges would cost about $1.5 billion.
In all, officials estimated cities and counties each could receive $396 million over the 10-year period. The Missouri Transportation Department would have about $5.2 billion for road, bridge, transit, rail, waterway, aviation and other transportation projects in addition to the I-70 project.
Farber said the 1-cent sales tax increase could support as many as 270,000 jobs in Missouri for the next decade.
There has been growing concern about funding for Missouri's transportation system. Since at least 2006, Pete Rahn, then the Transportation Department director, said the annual highway construction budget would decline significantly by 2010 as bond payments for past projects came due. The funding decline was delayed because of federal economic stimulus money that was approved in 2009, but in the last year, the state's highway construction funding has fallen from $1.2 billion to less than $700 million.
A special transportation task force said in a report released this month that Missouri should be spending an additional $600 million to $1 billion annually on transportation projects.
Legislative leaders have signaled support this year for a possible bond package that could include construction at state facilities and college campuses. It also could include a component for transportation projects. However, a state sales tax increase probably would need approval from the General Assembly, and majority party Republicans generally have resisted tax increases while supporting tax cuts.