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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

State Rep. sues to stop referendum to raise Missouri’s fuel tax

Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove.
Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove.

A lawsuit has been filed in Jefferson City to stop Missouri voters from going to the polls in November to decide whether to raise the state’s fuel tax.

The proposal is part of a House bill passed on the final day of the 2018 regular session. It would gradually raise Missouri’s fuel tax from 17 cents a gallon to 27 cents by July of 2022.

The original version of the bill would create a tax deduction for Olympic medals won by athletes from Missouri. It was sponsored by Rep. Jean Evans, R-Manchester.

State Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, is suing the state, saying the bill now violates the State Constitution’s single-subject rule because of the addition of the fuel-tax referendum.

“You’ve got the Olympic athletes, the increase in gas tax, Missouri Highway Patrol funding,” he said. “You’ve got several different subjects.”

Revenue from the fuel tax would go to fund the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s traffic-enforcement efforts. Another provision in the bill would create a new fund to fix so-called “traffic bottlenecks.”

Ronald Calzone, a political activist from Dixon, is also named as plaintiff along with Moon. Defendants named in the lawsuit include Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The suit will be heard by Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green, but a hearing date has not yet been set.

Gov. Mike Parson supports the fuel tax referendum.

"I'm going to be supporting infrastructure in the state of Missouri, and yes, if that's part of the infrastructure plan, then we're going to be supporting infrastructure in the state," he told reporters last month.

In August of 2014, Missouri voters strongly rejected creating a three-quarter-cent sales tax that would have generated more than $5 billion for transportation costs.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Copyright 2018 St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.