Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bill Crawford: Mississippi Ignores Conservative Taxing

As you lurch over another crevice in your favorite rural highway, here are some facts you can use to dull your senses. That apparently works for our state leaders.

Mississippi has the third lowest gas tax rate among the 50 states. The lowest is Alaska at 14.4 cents per gallon. Second is Missouri at 17.4 cents. Then comes Mississippi at 18.4 cents.

Mississippi established this rate in 1987 and it hasn't moved since. Only Alaska has stood still on gas rates longer, last raising its rate 50 years ago.

Rates have moved in neighboring states, however, two just this past September and one the year before.

Alabama, in September, began phasing in a 10 cent per gallon increase, adding 6 cents to hit 24 cents per gallon this year. When fully phased in at 28 cents, Alabama would rank just behind Tennessee at 22nd lowest.

Also in September, Arkansas raised its rate to 24.5 cents per gallon. At this level, Arkansas has the 17th lowest rate.

A year ago, Tennessee raised its rate to 27.4 cents per gallon. At this level Tennessee has the 21st lowest rate.

Standing still with Mississippi, so far, is Louisiana which established its 20 cent per gallon rate 29 years ago. That rate is the 8th lowest in the nation.

The average rate nationally on gasoline is just under 32 cents per gallon. Twenty-two states have rates higher than that.

Studies by the Mississippi Economic Council showed Mississippi needed at least $375 million more per year for 10 years to fix the worst of its crumbling roads and bridges. The total needed to put our transportation in good shape was projected at over $6 billion.

So far, state leaders are trying to cheap their way out of this dilemma.

The new lottery tax may provide $80 million a year for 10 years, a total of $800 million. The legislature provided one time bond money of $300 million for road and bridge repairs plus 35% of the new 7% “use tax” on internet out-of-state sales to local governments for bridge repairs. The use tax diversion could generate about $120 million per year or $1.2 billion over 10 years. All that adds up to an estimated $2.3 billion over 10 years.

If all these estimates come true that still leaves a shortfall of over $3.5 billion compared to total needs and about $1.45 billion compared to dire needs.

State Auditor Shad White recently audited the Mississippi Department of Transportation. His clean audit report suggested MDOT could redirect millions toward road and bridge construction if it streamlined operations. Those millions amount to about $15 million per year or $150 million over 10 years. Good savings but a smidge of what's needed.

The conservative way to fund roads and bridges is through user taxes, i.e. the gas tax. Using bonds, gambling revenues, and sales tax diversions puts an unfair burden on many taxpayers, particularly the elderly, and robs money from needy general fund programs.

Most Republican controlled states understand the conservative way to tax, but not Mississippi.

“That's also why you pay taxes – so that an orderly way of life can be maintained” – Romans 13:7 (MSG).

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.


Anonymous said...

My question on gas tax is: In I believe 1985 five cents per gallon was added to the gas tax. This was to expand the 4 lane corridors across southern & northern Mississippi. After 15 years this tax was to be removed (yea, like they thought we'd believe that lie and that was going to happen ).

Well, the expansions were completed, but there was no repeal on the 5 cents tax. Where is all that money that should have accrued over the last 30+ years?

Could it be that when MDOT wanted a new building and DFA told them no, so they tore the old building at Northwest & Woodrow Wilson down to the slab, then "REFURBISHED" the old building with a new one is where the dollars went?

Anonymous said...

Ain't nothin' wrong with these roads in Misiippi. just last week I took the whole famly on back of the John Deer twelve miles to the Piggly Wiggly and we ain't broke down once! Just another libral plot to take my money and give it to welfare cheats in Jackson! No mo taxes!

Anonymous said...

It’s simple math. We are consuming far less gas today than 20 years ago and road maintenance costs have gone up significantly

Cynical Sam said...

Yes, mileage has improved, but the cost of gasoline has risen, so it's a push.

Maybe the thieves in the capitol have gotten better at their craft.

Anonymous said...

Stupid and corrupt politicians will keep Mississippi last in every meaningful metric there is.

Anonymous said...

Rough roads aint all bad. Ever since they cut way back on the salt on tater chips we just plan ahead! We head out the Piggly Wiggly to the truck and then we commence to open all the bags of tater chips right there in the parking lot. NO EATIN YET AS THEY AINT DONE YET!

Jest put some of that there orgainic salt in each bag and then when you is hittin the potholes you is mixin the chips and salt! Jest be sure not to loose control and end up in the ditch. Specially since they kinda soft lately what with all the rain.

Anonymous said...

Cynical Sam: Unless I am mistaken, the rise of gas prices is irrelevant to state revenues. The gas tax is so much per mile; no indexing. No matter how many gallons are sold, or whatever the price per gallon, the state receives the same amount per gallon.

Anonymous said...

When does it end. Gas tax, sales tax, high car tag tax, federal tax, state tax, permit fees, hunting and fishing fees, property tax, franchise tax, self employment tax and on and on.

Now if you want to be fair in this article, tell us what the car and other taxes are? For example, Texas has higher gas taxes but much lower car tags. Florida has higher fuel tax but no state tax.

Anonymous said...

Cynical Sam, incorrect. It’s not a push as far as tax collections for road maintenance. You pay by the gallon, not as a percentage of spend. So we are collecting less today while costs have gone up.

Anonymous said...

So...everyone else is raising taxes...Crawford wants to get in line.
Sorta, if, everyone jumps off the barn roof thing my mother used to mentio

Anonymous said...

Bill did not mention where the Mississippi household income ranks. Maybe if Mississippi ranks #16 in HH income they should rank #16 in gas tax (or maybe all taxes?) Rural state means more roads and citizens have a longer commute.

Bill leaves a lot of ground uncovered. Maybe in the future Bill should just give his readers his opinion on the solution rather than incomplete statistics.

Octane Ollie said...

Are you people suggesting there are fewer automobiles, riding mowers, outboard motors, weed eaters, portable generators (in sheds and at tailgates), trucks, leaf blowers, tillers and chain saws today than there were in 1999?

Anonymous said...

When you got a road with holes then start calling it a frontage road to Tater's and pay for it with economic development money!

Errybody happy then and it gits-r-dun!

Anonymous said...

Are you people suggesting there are fewer automobiles, riding mowers, outboard motors, weed eaters, portable generators (in sheds and at tailgates), trucks, leaf blowers, tillers and chain saws today than there were in 1999?

Octane Ollie: are you suggesting that riding mowers, outboard motors, weed eaters, portable generators, leave blowers, tillers and chain saws are causing damage to our roads and bridges? You do realize you pay the same tax for gasoline for all these machines as you do when you fill up the F150?

Octane Ollie said...

No, 11:51 - I'm suggestion they burn gasoline. Someone suggested we're burning less gasoline now than 20 years ago. That's bogus. Are you suggesting if we are buying twice as many gallons of gas, we're not collecting a dime more in taxes than if we were purchasing the number of gallons? Gawd! I hope you went to bed after that post.

Anonymous said...

The Republicans sure didn’t mind hitting hybrid owners for $75 more per year, without any regard to how much they actually drive or how much gas they actually use. I’m quite certain a Z71 driving 24k miles per year is doing far more damage than a Prius going less than 1k/month. Would have made more sense for tags to increase based on mileage, instead of some arbitrary amount. But I guess that’s “conservative” in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

Some of the opposition to increasing the fuel tax might go away if MDOT will implement the changes needed to take advantage of the savings found in the Auditor's report, meager as they may be. It's the thought that counts, and as long as MDOT is knowingly wasting tax dollars they'll not get my support for an increase.

Anonymous said...

Electric car owners pay the state $150 per year. Not sure why they get so screwed on the deal except for the GOP trying to punish people who care about the environment. I would say make everyone pay $150 for every car, $75 for motorcycles, $300 for every truck, $600 for the heavy duty work trucks, and $1200 for semi trucks.

Anonymous said...

You might want to look into the taxes on over the road semis tagged in Mississippi 12:23. It's been a while since I was concerned with the taxes but it was high then and likely higher now.

Anonymous said...

Semi trucks don't fill up at the corner station, typically. And you'll notice the IFTA and other required tax labels on the tractors.

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