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Funding by any means but tax hike

Mississippi is considering new (or at least new to the state) ways to fund much-needed road and bridge improvements.

Gov. Phil Bryant says a lottery is one possibility, while some legislators are suggesting a local fuel tax that would have to be approved by voters.

Both options are likely to be unpopular with some. The idea of a lottery has been floated for years. Mississippi is one of only six states without a lottery.

Bryant’s support for a lottery hinges on whether the Mississippi Economic Council supports using lottery funds to pay for infrastructure needs. The group hasn’t weighed in on the lottery idea yet.

A lottery will likely face strong resistance from some conservatives in the Legislature, but Bryant’s support puts them in a better position to go along with it. Bryant had asked legislators to consider a lottery during the regular session. Though House Speaker Philip Gunn opposes a lottery, he put together a group to study it.

There’s little agreement on the economic impact of lotteries. Proponents argue that a lottery is an easy way to raise state revenues without raising taxes. Opponents argue that funding from lotteries to state programs is limited and lotteries target low-income residents. Those least able to afford tickets are typically the ones buying them.

The other idea being considered is a local fuel tax. This proposal would allow cities and counties to set a local option fuel tax if voters approve. It’s hard to see residents anywhere voting for a tax increase, even though it may be necessary.

Other ideas include taking online sales taxes that some companies collect and use it for transportation needs and issuing bonds to help local governments pay for bridge repair and replacement.

The goal of all these proposals is to increase revenue without increasing taxes at the state level. Given the needs of the state’s roads and bridges, that may not be possible.