As Mississippi’s roads and bridges are rapidly deteriorating, the agency charged with the maintenance and upkeep of the state highway system only receives a fraction of the funds it needs to keep Mississippi’s roads and bridges safe for the traveling public. Studies by the Mississippi Economic Council showed the Mississippi Department of Transportation needs at least $375 million more per year for 10 years to fix the worst of its crumbling roads and bridges.
While the funds provided during the 2018 Special Session are a step in the right direction and will be put to good use, the lottery is expected to raise just $80 million for roads and bridges per year, $800 million over 10 years in total. A small dent when looking down the barrel at over $6 billion needed to repair our state’s transportation network during that time span. While the legislature also provided a one-time bond funding of $300 million plus a percentage of the “use tax” on internet out-of-state sales to governments, this brings the 10 year total to an estimated $2.3 billion; $3.5 billion short of total needs to repair our state’s roads and bridges.
Bill Crawford, a well-respected columnist from Meridian recently wrote on the issue saying, “Using bonds, gambling revenues, and sales tax diversions puts an unfair burden on many taxpayers, particularly the elderly, and robs money from needy general funds programs.”
A user fee or a gas tax is the conservative way to generate the necessary funding for our crumbling roads and bridges. When a driver uses the roads more, they should pay more. A gas tax does exactly that while not placing the burden on other taxpayers or taking money from general fund programs that are desperately needed for other uses around the state.
It’s time for Mississippi to catch up to its neighbors in Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee and generate needed funding for roads and bridges in the most conservative and fair way for all Mississippians.