A recent poll shows support for increasing the gasoline tax at 22 percent and support for increasing the vehicle registration fee at 19 percent.
Officials with the state Department of Transportation have said an extra $400 million per year is needed to deal with the deteriorating highways and bridges across Mississippi.
Now, obviously an amount smaller than that would be better than nothing. But it would be unfortunate for voters to go to the polls to pass a proposal that did not make significant strides in solving the problem.
Doing so would make state officials look bad and make voters angry.
The bottom line is that such a referendum is fraught with landmines.
For instance, a recent poll by the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center shows support for increasing the gasoline tax at 22 percent and support for increasing the vehicle registration fee at 19 percent.
Now, granted that is just one poll. And the poll did not link those tax increases with spending the generated revenue for transportation needs. Other polls have cited the need to improve the state’s transportation system as one of the top – if not top issue – for a plurality of Mississippi voters.
Perhaps groups that are advocating for more transportation spending, such as the Mississippi Economic Council, could run a successful campaign to get voters to agree to a package of tax and fee increases.
But the MEC and other like-minded groups, no doubt, would have to think long and hard before endorsing such a referendum. They will have to decide whether to endorse a referendum knowing if they lose it will be difficult in the foreseeable future to convince legislators to vote to raise the needed revenue or forgo the referendum and hope legislators will finally have the will to address the issue.
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