Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Sid Salter: White Brings Relevant Experience & Political Credibility to MDOT

 The decision of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves to tap his own chief of staff as the new leader of the Mississippi Department of Transportation bodes well for an organization that has seen more than its share of discord over the last two decades.

Simpson County native Brad White, who hails from the small Jupiter community there, comes to the helm of MDOT after logging stints as the chief of staff for Reeves, for Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, for the late Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, and former Republican State Auditor Stacy Pickering.

White held the staff position with the State Auditor’s Office and the state Public Service Commission. In local affairs, White served as executive director of the Simpson Country Economic Development Foundation.

From the standpoint of navigating the state’s political waters in a state government dominated by Republican statewide elected officials and in a state legislature controlled by Republicans in both houses, White is a former chairman and executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party.

White faces state Senate confirmation, but lawmakers would be hard-pressed to entertain a nominee with more or better relevant experience or political credibility in Mississippi government and on Capitol Hill.

Perhaps White’s most vital attribute is his knowledge of how highway construction is actually financed in Mississippi – which is no small feat given the rather Byzantine system utilized. The answer is a complicated combination of federal and state fuel excise taxes and the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

The federal and state gasoline tax system is failing on several fronts - Mississippi’s 18.4 cents per gallon (CPG) state gas tax is a flat tax. When we paid $3.965 a gallon for gas in 2008, the tax was 18.4 CPG. When we pay $2.71 per gallon at the pump this week, the state tax is still 18.4 CPG. The only way the state takes in more revenue in gas taxes is for the volume of gas consumed to increase – and automobiles are now manufactured to require less fuel consumption than a decade ago.


The federal fuel tax is likewise 18.4 cents per gallon and hasn’t changed since 1993. Neither the federal nor state fuel taxes have kept pace with inflation. Both federal and state fuel tax rates would be 33.4 CPG (indexed for inflation) each and far closer to funding what’s needed to build and adequately maintain the national and state highway infrastructures.

The Tax Policy Center in 2020 reported that “before 2008, highway tax revenue dedicated to the trust fund was sufficient to pay for outlays from the fund, but that has not been true in recent years. Since 2008, Congress has sustained highway spending by transferring over $140 billion of general revenues to the fund, including $70 billion in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act in 2015.

“Those transfers will enable the trust fund to meet spending obligations through 2020, but projected shortfalls will appear again by the end of 2021. The Congressional Budget Office projects that, by 2030, outlays from the Highway Trust Fund will exceed trust fund reserves by a cumulative $134 billion for the highway account and by $54 billion for the mass transit account, even if expiring trust funds taxes are extended.”

Congress and the Mississippi Legislature face the same problems raising highway funds from fuel taxes at current rates. Fuel consumption is flat-to-declining, and fuel efficiency continues to improve. Hence, as we drive less and get more miles to the gallon, the federal and state gas taxes don’t raise enough revenue to sustain the current transportation infrastructure or expand and improve it.

Over the last 20 years, MDOT had executive directors in the late Butch Brown who was a contrarian empire builder, and in his successor Melinda McGrath, a talented engineer who struggled at times with the political side of the job. In Brad White, MDOT will have a director who understands federal highway finance and has the retail political skills to work effectively with Mississippi’s unique and varied political constituencies to advance infrastructure needs with the three elected transportation commissioners.  

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at



Anonymous said...

The headline says enough. It will be a disaster.

Anonymous said...

But can he expedite the 49 disaster?

Anonymous said...

White is smart….you can tell because he never utters a word.

Anonymous said...

A pure politician. He has no qualification other than that. This will not go well.

Anonymous said...

Two worthless swamp creatures scratching each other's backs, and the circle remains unbroken.

Anonymous said...

"late" Butch Brown is still alive, last I recall.

Anonymous said...

he may bring experience but he's going to have to change his last name. I'm triggered

Anonymous said...

Can I pay to have a Sid Salter article written about myself too?

Anonymous said...

And 49 other states appoint their highway commissioners.

Anonymous said...

"experience"? at what?

Anonymous said...

Well, the bar has been set pretty low for many years, so he has that going for him.

Anonymous said...

As Sid carries the water for the roadbuilders and asphalt producers in the state, he does point out that the feds have supplemented the funds for highway construction with 'general fund' dollars.

But, he doesn't acknowledge that the state has dedicated $80 million a year from lottery revenue (which otherwise would have been 'general fund' dollars had they not been dedicated to highways), nor does he acknowledge the dollars put into bridge reconstruction, both from the general fund and from bond revenue.

Yes, the gas tax has not been raised from when we paid $3.75 or now that we pay $2.75. Nor were they lowered last year when we paid $1.50. (funny, I didn't see that comparison made in Sid's insightful comments either, just the big numbers and what a small percentage the tax was of those. But of course, when it would be a big percentage, it wouldn't work with his narrative.)

I thought when I started reading the column that it was going to be a good comment on Brad White moving to the ED job; where Sid is correct in saying it was a good appointment. But then he digressed into pushing for a tax hike. But why should I be surprised.

Anonymous said...

Yessiree we are indeed fortunate to have someone so qualified in higher math to cipher that there fuel tax for us. Just imagine if we were left to our own to have to figure that out. Whew! I feel lucky.

Anonymous said...

I was only hoping Sid had spotted another UFO over Stark-Vegas.

Anonymous said...

1:54's last paragraph says it all!!!

Anonymous said...

So White has had different jobs, but all were appointed or politics or both. Wait, what? So this makes him qualified to do what exactly? Someone who ran a large road building company would be qualified, a political appointee who doesn’t even have an engineering degree is not qualified. Tate hired a man to run the prison system. What did he do before that? Ran a prison system. That’s called qualified. We have some of the worst roads and bridges in the nation. The people of Mississippi should be outraged.

Anonymous said...

Just let me know when they are able to build a bridge in under 21 years and on budget, when others states do it in 2.

Anonymous said...

Sid was just showing his support for another good-ole-boy placement who will keep everything nice, quiet, and off the radar. Results for Mississippians? LOL. Sid's a closet communist - his mindset? them into oblivion until I've locked in 40 years with PERS.

Sid Salter is a worthless windbag who writes subterfuge for the corrupt Mississippi machine.

Anonymous said...

Ummm... There is nothing special to the way the funding of construction projects operates in Mississippi. The "Byzantine system" is the same system used by other states across the country to fund public highway projects. I understand it, but, in no way, does that make me uniquely qualified to be Executive Director.

I don't expect much from opinion columnists, but even this attempt fell well short of those less than lofty expectations.

Anonymous said...

Do yourselves a favor and Google the Trans-Alaskan Highway, how quickly it was completed, how long it is, what year it started (hint WWII) and what month it was passable. It will take MDOT and its contractors three or four more years to simply complete Highway 49 South. Ride down that way any day of any week and you'll be lucky to see six men working.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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