Legislature will get pitch for road revenue

djournal-state-news-mississippiBy Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – A coalition of road builders and others interested in the state’s transportation needs is expected to make a recommendation to a reluctant 2014 Legislature for additional revenue or a tax increase to improve Mississippi’s roads and bridges.

“We are going to give them a list – say here are the needs and here are some options to address those needs,” said Hollis Cheek of Cheek Contractors in Kosciusko, who is president of the Mississippi Road Builders Association.

“…We don’t want to dictate a specific solution. We want to give them (legislators) a variety of options.”

Cheek predicted those proposals will be made just before the Legislature convenes in January or soon after that.

The Road Builders Association held its annual luncheon Tuesday where it heard a report from its national counterpart on the importance of transportation construction to the economy of Mississippi.

Alison Black, an economist and vice president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, said that highway and bridge construction accounted for more than 31,000 jobs in Mississippi.

But the 18.4 cent-per-gallon motor fuel that funds most of the state’s infrastructure work is no longer enough to keep up with needs, according to state Department of Transportation officials and others. In a video played at the luncheon, former Republican House member Charlie Williams, who is president of the T1 Coalition, said construction costs have increased 300 percent since 1987 when the tax was imposed. During that same time, the revenue generated from the tax has remained essentially unchanged.

The T1 Coalition is hoping to generate grassroots support similar to what led to the 1987 Four-Lane Program and the 18.4 cent-per-gallon tax that supports it.

But thus far the support has been lukewarm. A task force created by the 2013 session of the state Senate to look at the state’s infrastructure needs and to make a recommendation on a method to address them has not been able to reach consensus.

Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, a Republican who was one of the first politicians in the state to advocate additional tax revenue for roads and bridges, said the Legislature will act on the issue when the business community becomes involved.

“I think the business community is listening,” Hall said after the luncheon. “I think it will get involved and when it does get involved there will be movement.”

Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, also a Republican, said “everything should be on the table” in dealing with the state’s transportation needs. He said the study which shows transportation-influenced jobs account for an annual payroll of $949 million and $188 million in state revenue shows that there is no downside to investing in transportation.

He said the investment is an economic generator while improving the quality of life for residents. He said those supporting additional revenue must convince legislators that transportation has to be a priority for the state.

“We need additional revenue, period,” said Tagert.

Hall said 12 states in the past year have raised some type of tax to support transportation needs.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com

  • clara hardin

    Why is it not stated that the sale of gas has also increased a lot and so the taxes on it???????????????

    • FrereJocques

      Because it isn’t true. Gas sales have gone down or remained fairly flat, due to the increased efficiency of automobiles. Cars used to get 14 to 18 miles per gallon. Now it’s up around 22 to 30 miles per gallon. The tax on gas has remained the same, so they’re getting the same revenue for a service whose price has tripled.

      **I** don’t like higher taxes any more than anyone else does. It’s simply a question of, do you want lower taxes or decent roads to drive on?

  • Tupelo_Guy

    Legalizing marijuana in Mississippi for medical and recreational use can provide extra tax that could be going toward Mississippi’s highways and education.

  • Watcher

    Let me get this straight, The Mississippi Road Builders Association (a group of professional road construction companies) want to increase the gasoline tax in order to create jobs for them. In other words, they want us, the taxpayer, to support their lively hood. Well, why don’t they just come knock on our door and ask for a donation? A one time donation would be a lot easier on my wallet instead of every time I fill up my car.

    • FrereJocques

      Blaming the Road Builders Association for bad roads is like blaming your Doctor for becoming diabetic. You can question the motive of the RBA, but the fact remains that money is needed to keep the roads repaired. There ARE choices. You can add the cost of road repair into the state’s General Budget, or you can increase the gas tax. Just please, DON’T come at me with the idea of GPS tracking so you can charge me by the mile, as they are experimenting with in some western states. The Gov’t knows far too much about our lives as it is.

      • Watcher

        Not blaming the RBA, but they are actively lobbying for some type of revenue (tax increase) in order to give them a job.
        And, I agree with you, no GPS. Here in the South, where there is almost no public transportation & we have to travel much further distances for work, groceries, etc., we would be crippled.