With the 2020 Mississippi Legislative Session kicking off on Tuesday, January 7, lawmakers are back in Jackson and getting to work on the important issues that Mississippians face every day. While lawmakers are focusing on legislative agendas and key issues most important to our state, an out-of-state special interest group is chiming in with their agenda, looking to have an influence inside the Mississippi State Capitol.
Americans for Prosperity-Mississippi announced their campaign for 2020, calling for spending reform instead of a gas tax to dangerous, crumbling roads in our state. The group’s state director wrote an op-ed in Y’all Politics voicing the opinions of the outsider, billionaire-backed Washington, D.C.-based for which he works. Americans for Prosperity is a national, special–interest group that fights for “anti-progress” in states throughout the country.
AFP is well-known for being spotted throughout the Southeast fighting against gas tax bills, willing to say anything that would block much-needed progress and improvements to roads and bridges. Including a losing-effort in South Carolina (2017), Tennessee (2017) and Alabama (2019) where a gas tax increase was overwhelmingly approved in all three very conservative southern states. The state director went on to claim, with no evidence or studies behind his statement, that the problems within the state’s transportation system were a result of inefficient spending and mismanagement of state funds by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).
Contrary to what the state director states, numerous studies and legislative PEER reviews have been performed since 2012. None of which have found any glaring inefficiencies which this special–interest group alleges. A statutorily mandated audit by the State Auditor is currently being performed and the results will be made public soon. We do not expect any major inefficiencies to be found but eagerly await the results at which point we can stop these false claims and get to the root of the problem.
It is clear, agency inefficiencies or mismanagement of public funds are not the real problems with Mississippi’s transportation issue; rather finding a sustainable long-term funding to fix crumbling roads and bridges throughout the state is. Conservative neighboring states across the Southeast have passed gas taxes aiding these states in their growing economies and populations.
States like South Carolina, which passed a gas tax increase in 2017, had the 6th highest population growth in the country in 2019. In the Business Facilities 2019 state rankings for best Best Business Climate, Tennessee and Alabama were ranked #1 and #3, both states have approved increases in their gas taxes since 2017. A gas tax or otherwise known as a user fee, will not hinder the economy, but allow the Mississippi economy to grow on the back of an updated transportation system. Building roads and bridges is building the economy, just as Mississippi’s neighboring states in the Southeast have done and are thriving as a result.