Lawmaker: Miss. gas tax increase needed in future
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A top lawmaker says Mississippi needs to increase its gasoline tax to pay for highway and bridge maintenance, but he concedes there's little chance of it happening this year.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Johnson said Monday that 40 percent of Mississippi's major roads and 28 percent of its highways are in poor or mediocre condition. He also says 25 percent of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
Mississippi's tax on gasoline and diesel fuel has been 18.8 cents per gallon since 1987.
Johnson, D-Natchez, filed a bill this year to increase the fuel tax. It died last week in the House Ways and Means Committee, and Johnson said there's little chance it'll be revived.
Still, he said he's trying to keep conversation about the subject alive, in hopes that industry groups and average citizens will tell lawmakers that safe roads and bridges are important to the state's economic future.
Under President Dwight D. Eisenhower more than 50 years ago, the U.S. was a world leader in developing an interstate highway system, Johnson said.
"Now, we're at a point where we won't do anything. I just don't understand it," he said Monday during a forum sponsored by Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps.
In 1987, the Mississippi Legislature approved an extensive program to build four-lane highways, with construction funded by a fuel tax increase. The tax increase was supposed to disappear once the program was completed, but lawmakers in 1994 voted to make the tax open-ended to pay for more highway construction.
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