For several years now, transportation officials have opined that Mississippi needs a fuel tax increase to cover the rising costs of maintaining our highways and roads. Dick Hall even talked about it on the campaign trail, and he was still reelected, so this should be no surprise to anyone.
A legislative/business task force has started meetings to figure out where to make up approximately $500 million of what is currently budgeted to what the state really needs. Of course, and also unsurprisingly, Republicans have immediately hung their anti-tax banner. Economic development and a strong, maintained infrastructure that includes roads and bridges are clearly linked. It's bad enough that we're trying to recruit business with one of the worst education systems in America, but we want to add crumbling roads and falling bridges? Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sees this as a priority for economic development.
But, there is an alternative, proposed by Sen. Hob Bryan, and reported on Geoff Pender's blog:
“For people who say government just needs to live within its means … needs to cut back just like families have had to cut back and say that cutting taxes is an ends to itself … We have too many roads to maintain. We need to admit we’ve overbuilt. It’s government out of control! We need to determine which roads we are going to abandon … See which paved roads we’re going to let go back to gravel. Let’s right-size our highway system and live within our means. I hope people who campaigned on that will now come forward and vote to do that.”
Mississippi is a mostly rural state, and while there are many gravel roads out here, these conservative legislators are going to have to face the fact that more revenue must be generated to maintain our roads, or, they can volunteer the roads and bridges their constituents use for shut down.
Geoff also has a more complete review of the task force meeting with specific proposals here.