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25 January 2012

Kraus: Toll Roads

There are lots of discussions in Jefferson City about turning parts of I-70 into a toll road. While I am open to the concept of toll roads in Missouri, and while I acknowledge the need for I-70 to be completely redone, I am very wary of the current plans being presented.

The Missouri Constitution does not allow for toll roads. It has long been believed that it would take a vote of the people to allow for them in any fashion. Now, the Missouri Department of Transportation is suggesting that it can enter a public/private partnership and that the private entity, not bound by the constitution, could build and operate a toll road. I am completely against this constitutional run around and will not vote to authorize such a scheme.

I do understand that we need to raise funds to fix I-70 somehow. We can’t ignore the problem and it won’t just go away. Some have suggested raising gas taxes to come up with the needed funds, but with more efficient vehicles and with new vehicles that use little or no gas, we would be tying state revenues to a product whose sales will only decrease. That is not a wise long-term strategy, as those decreasing revenues will need to be replaced somehow.

I will admit that tolls do offer some positive benefits. They include fees on out-of-state users who travel on Missouri roads. They allow up-front financing of the entire project with bonding by providing a steady revenue stream. Many states have used toll roads successfully without a major impact to residents. If voters of Missouri choose tolls as an option at the ballot box, I would be open to looking at options that did not negatively affect my district.

It is unlikely that this is an issue that will come to a vote this year. I applaud the discussion, but we have a long way to go before any final solution is voted on, much less passed.

Grain Valley Town Hall

Toll roads were a big topic of conversation at the town hall I co-hosted with Grain Valley Mayor Mike Todd Thursday evening, Jan. 19. More than 30 residents came to discuss issues that were important to them. The town hall was originally scheduled for an hour; the first 30 minutes were completely taken up by the discussion of toll roads. I love the good and passionate discussions at open town halls, and this was no exception. It gives me a chance to understand where my constituents stand on issues, and it gives them a chance to hear my position.

We also discussed “Right-to-Work”, prevailing wage, and a few other union issues. Both will likely be topics of debate in the Senate this year. We discussed employment issues, the National Defense Authorization Act and how Missouri can create jobs.

At the end of the town hall, I asked for a show of hands to see who supported the concept of toll roads. Only one hand went up. Clearly, MoDOT has a tough sell on their hands.

District Days

I would like you to be my guest for District 8 Day at the Capitol on either March 21 or March 27, 2012. Each day will begin at 10:15 a.m. and end around 3:15 p.m. During the course of the day, you will be able to tour the Governor’s Mansion, the Capitol Building, and the Supreme Court. You will also have the chance to visit the floor of the Missouri Senate, and I will be available at that time for a question-and-answer session.

Spots are limited, so please R.S.V.P. by Wednesday, March 5, 2012. You can simply reply to this e-mail with your name, physical address, and number attending, and we will send out more information as the day draws closer. You will be responsible for your own transportation to Jefferson City. You can bring your own lunch, eat in the Capitol cafeteria, or, for a small fee, share in pizza that we will serve here. Please consider coming – it is a great opportunity to learn more about your Missouri state government, and it is a special day for me to meet with District 8 constituents.

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