Amendment 3: The Highway Robbery Amendment

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

End the Diversion -- Repair Our Roads! -- No New Taxes! Based on those deceptive slogans, you might think Amendment 3 is a good deal. But think again -- and get the facts before you vote on this state constitutional amendment on Nov. 2.

Proponents say Amendment 3 will "End the Diversion." But there is no "diversion" of highway funds. All our transportation-related tax money is used for transportation-related costs. Some dollars don't go directly to MoDOT but they pay for such things as employee benefits for highway patrol troopers, construction workers and engineers.

Proponents would like voters to believe dollars that rightfully belong to highways are being used for something else. That's just campaign propaganda. In 1979 -- when the state was flush -- half of the motor vehicle sales tax was earmarked for a state road fund. Before that, all these tax dollars went into the General Revenue Fund, just like the sales tax collected on all other consumer goods.

Now the road builders want the other half of the motor vehicle sales tax diverted to a new state road bond fund to be used only for new road construction. Bonds aren't used to pay for road maintenance, the top item on the want list of Missouri drivers. Voters will be disappointed if they believe "Repair Our Roads" means problems will be fixed in their present roads.

Then there that is that nifty promise of "No New Taxes." What the road builders don't tell you is that this money for roads is money that now pays for schools, health care, mental health, and Missourians‚ other critical needs. It is taken from the state's General Revenue Fund, the pool of tax money that our elected representatives use for state programs and services.

The No New Taxes slogan is actually a disguise for a hidden tax increase. Amendment 3 would divert nearly $190 million of our tax dollars each year to roads. This will be a devastating blow to public schools and colleges and state social service programs.

Missourians will pay in innumerable ways for the cuts made necessary when Amendment 3 takes away tax dollars used now for these services.

These are just a few examples:

Some will pay by not being able to get medical care for their sick children.

Others will pay because a family member with mental retardation can't get residential care.

College students and their parents will pay with more increases in tuition and fees at state universities.

And in local school districts, residents may pay with a property tax increase needed to maintain their public school system.

In this case, it's clear that there is no free lunch. You don't get a new highway-building program without paying for it some way.

What Missourians should have is a new, fair way to pay for all our transportation needs -- public transit, as well as highways.

Over the past four fiscal years, the state had to make $1.389 billion in cuts to basic services because of a shortage of funds. The state's funding for public schools is $600 million less than required. Cuts of over $58 million to mental health affect children with autism and adults with mental illness.

The "highway robbery" that is Amendment 3 will take even more from these and other needs.

Don't be fooled by campaign slogans. Vote "No" on Amendment 3.

-- Missourians for Tax Justice