Gas tax hike appears dead

Published 8:53 pm Saturday, April 2, 2016

Though not surprising, it is disappointing that lawmakers are giving up on a plan to increase money for roads through a series of tax changes.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, said Friday that the effort is dead for this year.

He said that many representatives instead demanded money-saving efforts at the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which says it needs another $526 million a year to prevent deterioration of state highways and bridges, The Associated Press reported.

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It’s no secret the state needs more money for infrastructure. Ride just about any of the state-maintained highways, and you’ll quickly understand why.

The plan for generating more revenue for roads was relatively straight forward: change the current 18-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and diesel to a 10 percent sales tax, with a floor of at least 20 cents per gallon and a ceiling of no more than 30 cents. State sales tax rates would also increase from 7 to 9 percent, while most sales taxes on groceries would be dropped.

The state would also eliminate the ridiculous corporate franchise tax, which has nothing to do with franchises but is only a way for the state to squeeze businesses for extra cash.

Those opposed to any plan that raises any tax instead want the Department of Transportation to become more efficient. Those savings could be used to fund road improvements, in theory.

But when was the last time any government agency, especially one as large at MDOT, magically found savings by being efficient? It makes for an easy headline, but is rarely accomplished.

The Mississippi Economic Council, which wants lawmakers to increase funding by $375 million, is still pushing lawmakers to act this year, although executive vice president Scott Waller said Friday that’s growing more unlikely, AP reported.

“I know time is short in this legislative session,” Waller said. “But as long as I’ve got an at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, I’m going to take the best swings I can.”

We’re guessing he strikes out and Mississippi’s roads continue to deteriorate.