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Putting off an immediate need for state roads
by By Charles Dunagin Enterprise Journal
Mar 06, 2014 | 76 views | 0 0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the current leadership at the state Capitol, it's no surprise that proponents of increased highway funding are putting off a concerted effort on the issue until after the 2015 elections.

Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who sometimes disagree behind the scenes, both say they are against any increase in the fuel tax.

Except for a few exceptions in the Legislature, there's no appetite for any kind of tax increase, especially on something like gasoline that everyone uses. Most lawmakers are more into giving tax breaks than increases.

But motor fuel taxes are the most logical way to pay for the highways.

The problem Mississippi faces is that as highways age and deteriorate, the source of funding - primarily the fuel excise tax - is yielding less as motor vehicles become more fuel efficient. Transportation officials estimate Mississippi needs about $400 million more per year to maintain its current system.

With a dearth of political leadership to solve the problem, the Mississippi Economic Council is planning a study looking for solutions to the highway funding shortfall, but it won't be presented until 2016, after the 2015 elections.

Building support from the business community is reminiscent of 1987 when a tax increase helped pay for a massive four-lane program that now needs to be maintained.

Putting off a new highway funding program for two years, which may be politically expedient, will make repairing the highways more expensive in the long run as they'll keep on deteriorating for two more years or longer.

While too many politicians at the Capitol seem always willing to hand out incentives to private businesses from movie producers to grocery stores, they should consider that maintaining an adequate infrastructure is a basic economic development tool - as well as serving the everyday taxpayer.

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