Lawmaker wants state to look at gas tax - - The News for South Mississippi

Lawmaker wants state to look at gas tax

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

If you ask the chairmen of the house and senate transportation committees to create a roadmap for economic prosperity in Mississippi, it begins with just that; roads along with a first-class transportation system.

"If you build the infrastructure, businesses, economic development and industries will come," said Representative Robert Johnson, a democrat from Natchez.

The only problem is paying for it. Johnson and Senator Willie Simmons say funding is the biggest challenge in making sure the state has the infrastructure in place to be competitive. Johnson says Mississippi currently collects about $1.50 per mile to take care of highways but those same highways are torn up at a rate of about $10 per mile.

"We have to make sure that we lay the foundation to make sure that we have everything in place," said Johnson.

With the sharp increases in gas prices, Simmons says there's a misconception that Mississippi is raking in more money to fix the problems. Because of what he calls an out-dated, flat rate funding system, that's not the case. Through current tax law the state collects 18 cents a gallon on gas purchased, regardless of how much or how high the price is.

"Although you're paying 40 cents more per gallon today than you were 30 days ago, very little money is going to go into the budget to increase the operation. Now, something is wrong with that system," said Simmons, a democrat from Cleveland.

To change it would mean changing state law, which hasn't been touched in more than two decades. Simmons says the gas tax needs to be looked at in order to keep the state's roadways and transportation ports competitive.

"Without the proper infrastructure, we cannot do the kind of economic development the state needs in order to maintain a stable economy," said Simmons.

both men also point to the importance of an improved railway system in the state to move goods to and from ports along the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River. without it, they say the state will loose out.

"If we live in a global economy, not a national economy, certainly we can't do economic development in this state on a regional basis," said Johnson.

Simmons says he'll be asking for a study to be down to examine ways other states are collecting additional revenues for infrastructure purposes before deciding on what he believes is the best route for Mississippi to take.

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