As of Monday, the average price of regular gasoline in Mississippi is $2.40. This ranges from a low of $2.32 in Stone county to a high of $2.68 in Adams county.
The average price per gallon was $2.34 a week ago and $2.28 a month ago. This is part of a national trend, as gas prices have risen by about 10 cents over the past three weeks. And manyanticipate Tropical Storm Barry could cause another spike in gas prices.
There is a wide range of gas prices throughout the country, with motorists in the South paying the least.
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California motorists are paying $3.74 per gallon, the most in the country. Some areas of the Golden State are paying more than $4.00 per gallon, numbers not seen in Mississippi since 2008.
Because Mississippians enjoy a low price at the pump, many – including both Democrats and Republicans running for governor – have called to raise the state’s gas tax, with the belief that it will be less painful. Some advocate for adjusting the tax to inflation annually, thereby preventing legislators from ever having to vote for a tax hike again while ensuring regular increases.
All this would do is simply redirect money from the private sector to government. A government that already controls 55 percent of the state’s economy.
Taxpayers currently spend over $1 billion annually on the work of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Some might want more, but the biggest problems with Mississippi roads are not state-maintained roads. Of the 479 bridges that are currently closed, only 11 are state controlled – and they are all being replaced. The rest are maintained by cities and counties.
And far too many of those localities are simply not keeping up with their roads and bridges and that is evidenced by what they spend. For example, Hinds County has spent an average of only 6.48 percent of its annual expenditures in the last three years on roads and bridges. It has 44 bridges closed, according to the Office of State Aid Roads. Neighboring Rankin and Madison counties spent 31 and 22 percent on roads and bridges, respectively.
Increasing the gas tax would not help local governments as those taxes go to the state and the Department of Transportation.
As we often see in government, the first reaction is a tax increase. But we know there are often far better solutions, like prioritizing your current funding. That is something local government could – and should – work on.