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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson addresses more than 400 in attendance Aug. 1 at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s State of the State event.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson addresses more than 400 in attendance Aug. 1 at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s State of the State event.

In Springfield, Parson advocates for gas tax hike

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In what served as his 60th day in office, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson yesterday made clear at a Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce event that he’s fully behind a proposed increase to the state’s gas tax, with the issue to come before voters in November.

The sold-out event at the White River Conference Center had more than 400 in attendance, according to chamber officials, who indicated a desire to turn it into an annual occurrence. Kelli Jones, press secretary for Parson, said the State of the State was a special event organized by the Springfield chamber and that no similar ones are planned at this time elsewhere in the state.

Legislators voted in May to place the fuel tax question on the November general election ballot, with a 10-cent increase over a four-year period being proposed. If passed, the state’s fuel tax for gas and diesel will rise 2.5 cents per year, beginning in 2019, increasing from its current level of 17 cents. It would top out at 27 cents in 2022.

Parson said the gas tax increase is needed to address the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges. He said Missouri has the fourth-lowest gas tax in the country while having the seventh-largest number of bridges nationwide. Approximately 4,800 bridges need repair, he said, at an estimated cost of $4.2 billion. In addition, he said the state has over 131,000 miles of public roads with almost a quarter of them rated in poor condition. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, state funding for roads and bridges comes in at 46th in the nation.

“We need to be proactive about this,” Parson said. “We can no longer kick this can down the road. None of us can.”

Improving public safety through repair and maintenance of all the highways and bridges of the state is imperative, the governor said.

“We have to keep our citizens safe. We need to move our economy forward,” he said. “It has been a growing concern for this state for far too long and it’s time to address this issue.”

Transportation infrastructure have been among the priorities for Parson over his years as an elected official, said Matt Morrow, chamber president. Morrow introduced Parson at the chamber’s inaugural State of the State event. Parson, who resides in Bolivar, was elected in 2016 as lieutenant governor, and took over as governor June 1 after the resignation of Eric Greitens.

“I will lead on this important issue of infrastructure in our state,” Parson said. “I will step out there and I will lead, but I need your help to be able to do that.”

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