Gas prices are lower than they’ve been in years, and, like President Obama, some Mississippi lawmakers see that as an opportunity to raise the state’s gas tax in order to pay for infrastructure improvements.
According to The Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Melinda McGrath told a joint meeting of the House Transportation and Senate Transportation subcommittees that the state needs more than $500 million annually of additional funding in order to bring its roads and bridges up to where they should be.
“We realize $526 million is a large need in anybody’s book,” McGrath said.
McGrath said the funding is somewhat time sensitive as the repair costs would increase six to 14 times if the delays take upwards of a decade. She said even an additional $200 to $300 million would make a noticeable difference on the state’s roads.
A gas tax hike has been in discussion in several states with the lower gas prices, but Mississippi might be in more need because the last major increase in infrastructure funding came in 1987. Since then, the cost for road and bridge building material has increased about 488 percent.
“I think everyone in this room knows we have to do something,” State Sen. Philip Moran (R-Kiln) said. “… We have to do something this year.”
Moran went on to say that the Mississippi residents might be more open to a gas tax increase now with the lower gas prices, and House Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Busby (R-Pascagoula) agreed, saying that now is the time to do something about the state’s crumbing infrastructure.
The House and Senate transportation subcommittees will meet again this week and hear from the Mississippi Economic Council, who released a road funding plan in December. The MEC’s plan called for $375 million annually in spending to be raised from a 1-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, a $10 fee on license plates, a general sales tax increase, a gas and diesel sales tax increase and a 2 percent excise increase on rental vehicles.