Some transportation lobbyists have worried about the chances of passing a tax increase, given state voters' rejection last November of a cigarette tax hike -- the third such rejection. But in a key development, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association -- which led the campaigns against the cigarette tax -- is backing a transportation tax.
Among the various ways to raise money, "the one we think would fly would be the 1-cent sales tax increase," the group's executive director, Ron Leone, told reporters last month. "Everybody benefits, everybody pays," he said.
Jones, who held a news conference Wednesday with Kelly by his side, said a bond issue was not a partisan issue and would "take a lot of heavy lifting on both sides of the aisle."
The speaker noted that college campuses, the mental health agency and highway officials all have long wish lists that have gone unfunded for years.
"We could put people to work almost immediately," Jones said. "These projects are on the books."
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it was on board, terming the plan "a unique opportunity to tap into millions of dollars that were previously committed to the Third State Building Fund," the bond issue that was retired last fall.
Competition for new bond money would be fierce. For example, the top priority for the University of Missouri-St. Louis is the long-stalled renovation of the Benton and Stadler Hall science complex. UMSL is financing a $30 million addition to the halls but is still seeking $60 million in state money to renovate the buildings.
Under a 2007 law, colleges and universities were supposed to get money for capital projects from a student loan authority, but that plan sputtered when the economy faltered.
Jones said legislators would have to keep the bond issue to a reasonable size. "We have to make sure it's not too large an animal that it sinks under its own weight," he said.
Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, said he planned to co-sponsor Kehoe's transportation tax increase.
"It looks like there's finally some momentum," McKenna said.