But a major push to improve state funding could be coming in the 2016 Legislature, which means officials elected this fall will decide whether Mississippi will raise taxes to pay for asphalt and bridges.
The pinch comes as highways age that were built following Mississippi’s 1987 passage of its four-lane highway program. Mississippi Department of Transportation officials estimate they need $400 million more a year just to stop deterioration.
Mississippi’s gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon hasn’t been raised since 1987. A panel led by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, proposed raising taxes to increase revenue by $600 million in 2013. Then, Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov Tate Reeves and some business groups rejected tax increases. The Mississippi Economic Council, the state’s chamber of commerce, is conducting its own study, and its support could be key to any successful plan. Executive Vice President Scott Waller said the council plans to release the study just after election day, and acknowledged it will contain options for revenue, but said he’s not ready to discuss the options.