State departments of transportation nationwide depend on special streams of revenue from fuel taxes to build and maintain highways, pay their operating and administrative costs and, in some instances, pay bonded debt for the long term.
Mississippi joined the ranks of highway taxation states early in the automobile era. In 1922, Mississippi became the second state in the U.S. to adopt a “gasoline tax” – 1 cent per gallon – and increased it to 5 cents per gallon during that decade.
Oregon was the first state to impose a tax on gasoline, in 1919. The funds collected from the 1 percent tax were used for road construction and maintenance.
In 1930, during the beginning of the Great Depression, Mississippi raised the tax to 6 cents per gallon, and it stayed at that level until 1950.
The earliest available Mississippi Tax Commission records, from 1935, show $8.985 million collected from the 6-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax.
Mississippi didn’t collect diesel motor fuel taxes until about 1940 because the technology was not widely used. The 1941 records from the Tax Commission show the first diesel tax collections in 1941, at the 6-cent rate, with only 265 diesel vehicles registered in-state.
In 1947, all non-gasoline fuel taxes were set at 7 cents per gallon.
The first three decades years of fuel taxes in Mississippi closed with a 1950 gasoline tax raise – the first since 1932 – from 6 cents to 7 cents per gallon.
In 1950, fuel tax collections were $30 million from gasoline and $556,000 from “other sources.”
Since 1950, the gasoline and diesel rates have risen substantially in the both the state and federal streams.
n 1950: Gasoline taxes rose to 7 cents per gallon; diesel and other fuels rose to 8 cents per gallon; federal fuel tax was 1.5 cents per gallon, an increase from the 1 cent imposed in 1930, but which went to the general fund.
n 1957: The advent of the Interstate Highway Program was behind a rise in the federal tax to 3 cents per gallon, followed by 4 cents in 1959.
n 1966: State diesel tax rose from 8 cents per gallon to 10 cents per gallon.
n 1970s: Mississippi’s gasoline tax rose from 7 cents to 9 cents, by increments of 1 cent in the early 1970s, when a failed statewide four-laning program was enacted but died under pressure of the rising prices linked to the first oil embargo.
n 1980: State gasoline taxes totaled $110 million; diesel taxes $24 million, and other taxes, $5.8 million.
n 1987: Gasoline taxes rose with passage of the 1987 Highway Program, a statewide four-laning initiative. On July 1, 1987, gasoline taxes increased to 15 cents per gallon and diesel taxes from 10 cents to 15 cents. In January, 1988, gasoline and diesel taxes rose to 17 cents; in 1989, gasoline and diesel rose to 18 cents per gallon, where they remain.
n 1988: Tax collections in the 2008 budget cycle totaled $300.1 million for gasoline; special fuel taxes (diesels), $117 million; other taxes, $3 million; environmental and seawall fees raised through the gas tax in specified counties, $5.998 million.
n Federal fuel taxes have risen from 9 cents for gasoline in 1983 to 18.4 cents for gasoline in 2009 and 22.4 cents for diesel.
American Petroleum Institute calculations place the total tax collected at the gas pump in Mississippi at 38.4 cents, slightly lower than bordering states, and significantly below the gasoline fuel tax average nationwide, 45.6 cents per gallon.
For diesel, the mean state tax is 26.6 cents per gallon plus an additional 24.4 cents per gallon federal tax, making the total 50.8 cents per gallon.
Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal