Some Mississippi lawmakers are urging business leaders to support an increase in the state's gas tax so that improvements can be made on crumbling infrastructure. MPB's Paul Boger reports transportation officials believe if the state's prominent economic leaders become involved, the legislature will be forced to take action.
The 18 cent gas tax -- which funds road and bridge repair around the state -- has not been raised since 1987. House Transportation Committee Chair Robert Johnson of Natchez says the only way lawmakers will raise the gas tax to fix infrastructure is if pressure is put on lawmakers.
"It takes money to make money." said Johnson. "There is not a business person in this room that if you don't buy new equipment, if you don't upgrade what you're doing, if you don't pay your employees what they need to be paid you're not going to succeed. It's the same thing in the state of Mississippi. It's the same thing with roads. It takes an investment. If we don't invest in our roads or any of our infrastructure we're never going to make anything happen in this state."
Mississippi Economic Council President Blake Wilson says a strong infrastructure system will help the state grow economically.
"It's very critical for economic development; it's one of the reason we've had such great success." said Wilson. "If you look at some of the plants out there it came about as a result of having accessibility. Toyota is a perfect example. Paccar, Somersal, Yokohama are all examples of plants that are located because of good accessibility. It's critical for driving the economic future of the state.
However, Republican Senate Finance Committee Chair Joey Fillingane says increasing gas taxes just won't happen.
"If you're asking if we're going to raise gasoline taxes to help remedy that problem, then I think the answer is a resounding, no." said Fillingane. "Do we need to look for other sources of revenue or just to grow the budget and the economy so that we have additional tax dollars to spend on those things, then sure."
A study released late last year said Mississippi's roads were so bad that the average driver spent more than one thousand dollars a year in extra car maintenance. Gulf Shore and Jackson residents paid at least twelve-hundred and fifteen-hundred dollars respectively.