Brent Maze Don’t let the election season stop a gas tax

By BRENT MAZE,

The 2019 Legislative Session could be a critical time for our state government.

Even though I know the election season is upon us and that typically means no one will try to rock the boat, there are a few issues out there that need to be addressed. One issue is our need for updated infrastructure. Mainly, that means roads and bridges for Mississippi.

I feel that this group of legislators can make some important strides to help our state achieve it’s longterm goal of getting our roads back in good condition. It was 30 years ago that the state passed a comprehensive gas tax that allowed the state to build many of the roads and bridges that we enjoy today.

Many of the four-lane road projects were completed during that era in the late 80s and 90s. That includes roads such as U.S. 82, U.S. 45, U.S. 25 and other main thoroughfares. Mississippi was way ahead of both Tennessee and Alabama on the completion of Corridor X, now known as I-22 that connects Birmingham and Memphis. The final segment was completed this past year with the opening of a new segment of I-269 just south of Memphis on I-55 after Tennessee failed to hold up their end of the bargain and convert U.S. 72 into an interstate leading right into Memphis.

In many ways, Mississippi’s main roadways have been way ahead of their neighbors. However, the state is falling behind on its maintenance of the roads it expanded, especially when it comes to city and county roads.

Local roads have suffered because the amount of the gas tax passed in the late 1980s has dwindled due to rising gas prices and more fuel efficient cars.

One way to rectify this problem is to look at the gas tax right now while prices are low. If you passed a 10 or 15-cent increase now, it wouldn’t cause too much of a problem. And perhaps it’s something that could be phased in over the course of several years. Maybe pass a tax increase that spreads out a 25- to 30-cent increase over the next three years.

One thing is for sure, gas prices aren’t likely to stay around $2 for the future. They will go back up, and so this is the perfect time to address this before we get further behind.

Some of the lottery money is going to be helping road projects until that gas tax money can start kicking in. One thing is for sure, the lottery by itself won’t be the answer, but maybe in concert with a gas tax increase, our state can finally start giving money back to the counties and cities so that they can maintain the roads in a much better fashion.

I know it’s unpopular to advocate for more taxes, but it’s something that is important if our state and local areas are going to grow.

Brent can be reached at brent@newtoncounty­appeal.com.