Representatives from the offices of nationally elected officials, as well as a Missouri state representative and a county commissioner joined four local mayors for the Platte County Legislative Breakfast held on Thursday, Sept. 6 at Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa.
The event gave a chance for each panelist to discuss items important to them and their constituents, which was moderated by the League of Women Voters.
Some of the main topics covered was infrastructure and economic growth in Platte County.
Corlew, a representative of the 14th district which includes portions inside the Platte County R-3 School District in Clay County, is on the transportation committee.
The Republican weighed in on the transportation related questions.
“The government doesn’t create the jobs but the government has a role to play to make sure we create infrastructure to the economy can move,” Corlew said. “It depends on roads and bridges as far as transportation. We need a major increase to transportation funding, which is 46th in the nation in terms of revenue per mile. Voters will have the chance to weigh in this November.”
On Nov. 6, voters will have a chance to pass a 10-cent tax increase, in increments of 2.5 cents for each of the next four years.
Corlew chaired the Missouri 21st Century Transportation Task Force last year and in January that committee recommended a tax increase of 10 cents per gallon and diesel by 12 cents in hopes of injecting $2.6 billion into funding for road improvements.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Missouri a C- grade for its infrastructure grade earlier this year. The state’s bridges earned a C grade, while the roads got a D+.
According ASCE report stated that 12.9 percent of bridges in Missouri are structurally deficient, well above the national average of 8.9 percent. There are still more than 4,800 bridges that need repairs that would cost in excess of $4 billion.
“I’ve been in support of this tax,” Corlew said. “We have the seventh largest highway system in the United States and we fund at only 46th. Our gas tax is the fourth lowest in the nation. We talked to Missouri citizens and they understand we can still be competitive and raise it up.”
Corlew noted the goal in 2026 is to have all types of fuel to be taxed the same.
The last fuel tax increase came in 1996.
Josh Hurlbert from U.S. Congressman Sam Graves’ office also spoke about transportation.
“The congressman is on the highway subcommittee in Congress and is a senior member,” Hurblert said. “One of his focus is infrastructure. We are happy to look forward to having a current highway bill through 2020, but more from his position, is what we will do down the road in infrastructure. We had a hearing on how we do handle technology. Whether we like it or not, self-driving cars are going to be the future. We have to have a highway bill to have a national standard. We are talking a lot. How do we fund transportation? The gas tax isn’t bringing in the dollars it once did. We can maybe do it one more time, but then we will have to switch to a miles traveled tax.”
Brenna Duffy, the deputy regional director for Senator Claire McCaskill’s office, noted the senator is in favor of the fuel tax in Missouri. She noted at a national level, McCaskill was part of a bipartisan effort that approved $20 billion for infrastructure. Duffy stated that MoDOT has an extra $72 million to work after money once earmarked didn’t go to the intended project or the project didn’t materialize.
Matt Haase, the state director for Senator Roy Blunt’s office, noted that Blunt is also in favor of the proposed fuel tax.
“Where we live is one of the greatest strengths,” Haase said. “We are in the intersection of the country’s highway, roadways and waterways. Transportation matters to us because of where we live.”
He noted a key project locally is the construction of the Buck O’Neill Bridge in Kansas City, which is currently undergoing critical repairs, but the long term future calls for a new bridge connecting Highway 169 into Interstate 35.
Platte County presiding commissioner Ron Schieber brought up the Zona Rosa Town Center when talking about the importance of the KCI construction.
“The county, outside of the airport, has a huge responsibility. It goes back to why do people come? It is a broken record, but we need to have great public safety, a great criminal justice system, so that people that travel to and from (Kansas City) and shopping around there feel safe. That is why we need a sales tax realignment that we’ve been talking about for three to four years.
“And south of the airport is Zona Rosa. We will continue to work to resolve that issue. It is not an easy issue. The current owner has pretty much disengaged from the property. It has left the county in a bind. We are committed to whoever that new owner may be to try to resolve the problem to the best interest of all. We will not be putting any money into that bond without a long-term plan. It doesn’t make sense to throw money without a long-term plan.”
Zona Rosa is currently managed by Olshan Properties, but when reached recently, an employee at the Zona Rosa office said a sale is pending to a new owner. Though nothing has been official, leasing information on the website directs prospective owners to Trademark Property, a Texas-based business that operate/run similar shopping centers in Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.
Neither Olshan or Trademark has made any comments to The Citizen about a pending transaction.