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Online sales may help fund road work

Those who do their shopping online may soon help pay to improve roads and bridges around the state.

A bill that passed Wednesday in the Mississippi House codified efforts to collect sales taxes from Amazon.com and other online retailers that sell goods in the state from somewhere else. Currently, Amazon and other retailers do not collect sales taxes.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would earmark the tax revenue for road and bridge work. Estimates put collections at between $50 million and $150 million annually, which is well short of the $500 million officials say is needed to maintain infrastructure.

But it’s a step in the right direction. Roads and bridges across the state are crumbling but Republican lawmakers refuse to take the logical step and increase fuel taxes to help pay for repairs. They say tax increases aren’t the way to fund the needed maintenance.

Well, we hate to break it to them but the Amazon sales tax bill is a tax increase. Currently, consumers are supposed to voluntarily pay sales taxes on any online purchases from companies that operate outside of Mississippi. But how many people actually do that?

This bill would force Amazon and others to collect sales taxes, which in turn will drive up the cost of those goods purchased online.

It’s a tax and the fear of raising taxes may keep the bill from passing. The money to repair roads and bridges has to come from somewhere. If not from an increase in the fuel tax, maybe an Amazon.com sales tax is the next best option.