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MDOT: Budget Not Enough To Keep Up With Needs

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 04 Jun 2014 03:43pm | comments
photo-Flikr Jimmy Emmerson
Officials with the Mississippi Department of transportation say they are billions of dollars behind in needed repairs and their current budget is not enough to fix all the broken down roads and bridges. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports -DOT's calls for more revenue could lead to higher gas taxes or toll roads.
Leaders of MDOT say since the state's gas tax has not been increased in 27 years, they are woefully short of the resources they need to maintain and expand the state's infrastructure.
MDOT executive director Melinda McGrath told the House transportation committee that more than half the state's roads are beyond the point where they can be maintained and would need to be fully rehabilitated.
"We need 2.7-billion today to repair all of our deficient bridges. We need 1.4-billion to repair all of our deficient pavement. Then we need over 8-billion to address the capacity needs of the state. And our annual budget is 927-million," McGrath said.
The committee and transportation advocates have been pushing the state to find a way to bring additional revenue to the department, possibly in the form of a higher gas tax or changing the tax to a percentage rather than a set amount. 
Central district transportation commissioner Dick Hall, who was a state representative when the original tax was established, told the committee it was a mistake to set the tax with no way for it to increase.
"We made two big errors when we did that. One of them was setting that flat rate instead of doing a percentage. At that time a gallon of gasoline cost about a dollar. If we had made it 18-percent, we would still get 18-cents and we wouldn't be having this debate today," Hall said.
Committee chair Robert Johnson of Natchez says all options need to be on the table, including allowing toll roads.
"Toll roads are always on the board. In fact I just met last week with a company that is interested in doing a public partnership with the state of Mississippi. We have people that want to invest in toll roads in the state of Mississippi," Johnson said.
Raising the gas tax could prove incredible difficult in the current legislature which is strongly opposed to increasing taxes.


photo-Flikr Jimmy Emmerson



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