/Gas tax increase to fund road and bridge repairs faces political potholes on both sides of the aisle

Gas tax increase to fund road and bridge repairs faces political potholes on both sides of the aisle

Waller, the ex-chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, stated that he believes there is enough interest among the business community. He spoke to many Republican groups and received no resistance from any of them. Waller said that Ronald Reagan, a Republican icon, was responsible for the gasoline tax hike in 1980s Mississippi. Waller admitted that it may take a tax swap to get the Mississippi Legislature’s support for raising the gasoline tax. The most important issue facing the 2019 gubernatorial candidate is whether to raise the 18.4-cent per-gallon gasoline tax in Mississippi, which ranks fourth in the country. This was especially true in the Republican primary, where Lt. Governor has been the front-runner. Tate Reeves supports increasing it, while Waller and Robert Foster support increasing it while reducing other taxes. Some believe that an increase in motor fuel tax is necessary to fund infrastructure at both the local and state levels. It’s not just Republicans that need to be persuaded to raise the gasoline tax. Many members of the minority Democratic Party said that they couldn’t support increasing the gasoline tax in recent sessions as lawmakers struggled to find funding for necessary road and bridge repairs. However, taxes have been cut in many other areas, especially for corporations. Sen. David Blount (D-Jackson) stated that the first step to addressing the budget and infrastructure problems is to freeze the reckless tax cuts passed in the Legislature. Blount and other Democratic senators introduced legislation to repeal the 2016 tax cut, which will reduce state funds in current dollars by $415 million per year, and redirect those funds to infrastructure. Blount suggested that the tax cuts, which are the most severe in state history, could be repealed now and directed to roads and bridges to find a source of revenue to solve the problem. Robert Johnson, a state representative from Natchez, stated that he agreed with Blount’s sentiment. He said that he was against tax cuts and was reluctant to increase the gasoline tax, while giving corporations a substantial tax cut. However, he believes that many Democratic legislators will support increasing the infrastructure tax. Although he acknowledged that the gasoline tax is a burden on working families, he stated that it has the benefit of being levied against large corporations who have no other connection to Mississippi than driving their trucks through the state. The Democratic front-runner for the governor race, Attorney General Jim Hood, notes that the $415 million tax cut in 2016 and the approximately 50 tax cuts that were passed earlier, which took more than $325 millions out of the state’s coffers, have reduced the amount of money available for infrastructure. According to legislative leaders, the plan will generate approximately $225 million once it is fully implemented for state and local infrastructure. Waller stated that the only revenue source for state needs from this special session is $80 million from a lottery, which is expected to begin operation in the latter part of 2018. Hood stated that infrastructure needs must be met with additional funding. Hood’s campaign claims that Hood has not supported an increase in gasoline taxes. Hood’s campaign stated that Hood would like to explore other options, including eliminating waste. A study done by a legislative committee found that there isn’t enough waste in the Department of Transportation budget for infrastructure spending. Reeves touts the 2018 special session as “a good first step in addressing our infrastructure challenges.” He added, “We will always be looking for more money…Infrastructure is a core function of government. Reeves claims that an increase in gasoline tax would be a disproportionately devastating effect on working families. Reeves cites 2016 data from U.S. Energy Information Administration (Bob of Economic Analysis) that shows “Mississippians consume a higher percentage of their per capita income on gasoline than any other state’s residents, three times more than New Yorkers for example.” However, no later data was available. Multiple states have raised their gasoline taxes since 2016, possibly altering the study. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average gasoline tax imposed by states is 28.66c per gallon. Mississippi’s 18.4c per gallon is the fourth-lowest as of January. In 2016, a Mississippi Senate committee found that a gasoline tax would be needed to match the purchasing power of the 18.4 cent-per-gallon tax in 1987. Foster is similar to Waller and proposes a tax swap in his plan for increasing the gasoline tax. Foster goes even further and advocates eliminating the personal income tax, and replacing it with use taxes such as the gasoline and retail sales tax. He stated that this would encourage economic growth. Robert Shuler Smith, Hinds County District Attorney, is also running for the Democratic primary for Governor. He said that he believes (a gas tax hike) would help education. It is not common for a state, which normally levies a tax for road and bridge maintenance, to redirect a gas tax to education. Waller was recently asked about his plans to achieve other goals such as raising teacher salaries to the Southeastern average. If money were redirected from education to a fund that is only for roads and bridges, as he proposed in his tax swap plan, Waller said. Waller stated that he believes that investing in infrastructure and expanding Medicaid would bring in an additional $1 billion per year in federal funds. He also suggested that teacher pay increases would stimulate economic growth and “a Mississippi miracle,” a renaissance, and state revenues. People need to feel pride and optimism. This is what I believe will happen. He laughed and said, “If it doesn’t happen y’all can vote for me out.”