As many prepare to hit the roads to travel for the Christmas holidays, Mississippians will be paying less than most at the pump.

According to the daily updated data from AAA, Mississippians are paying $2.21 per gallon. Missouri is slightly less at $2.206 per gallon. Mississippi’s four neighbors range from $2.23 in Louisiana to $2.30 in Tennessee. 

Residents of Simpson county are paying the least for gasoline at $2.08 per gallon. Residents of Alcorn, Desoto, Hancock, Harrison Jones, Marion, Prentiss, Stone, Tate, Warren, and Yazoo are all paying $2.15 or less per gallon. 

In the metro area, gas is $2.18 per gallon in Rankin county, $2.20 in Madison county, and $2.22 in Hinds county. 

Californians are paying the most among the continental U.S., at $3.62 per gallon. Two counties in the state are posting averages of over $4.00 per gallon. 

A significant amount of attention was dedicated to Mississippi’s gas tax during the 2019 elections, with an emphasis on raising it from candidates in both parties. 

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, former Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller supported a gas tax increase as did Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood. Gov.-elect Tate Reeves, who defeated Waller in the primary and Hood in the general election, opposed a gas tax increase on his way to victory.  

Still, there are others in powerful positions who have voiced support for at least some type of gas tax increase. And the numerous transportation related associations are not likely to give up their continual efforts to raise taxes.

But does a high gas tax correspond with a highly rated highyway system?

Not necessarily, according to an analysis that compared gasoline taxes by state and rankings from the Reason Foundation’s recently released annual Highway Report.

None of the top 10 states scored for highway efficiency and cost effectiveness were among the top 10 in the amount of gasoline tax levied on consumers. The top 10 states averaged 25.25 cents in taxes per gallon, just slightly above 24.85 cent per gallon nationwide average from the American Petroleum Institute.

Mississippi has the third lowest gasoline tax nationally (18.79 cents per gallon) and yet its highway efficiency and cost effectiveness was ranked 25th by Reason. 

Out of the five states with the lowest gasoline taxes, only Alaska (49th overall) and Oklahoma (41st overall) were near the bottom.

Conversely, none of the states with the highest gasoline tax scored higher than Mississippi in the overall score, the best being Illinois at 28th. The Land of Lincoln hits motorists with a 54.98 cent tax on every gallon of gasoline.

California has the nation’s highest gasoline tax at 61.20 cents per gallon, yet it only ranked 43rd overall in the Reason Foundation report. Pennsylvania (35th in the report) has the next highest gasoline tax nationally at 58.7 cents per gallon. 

Missouri was ranked third overall and its gasoline tax (17.42 cents per gallon) is the lowest in the country, yet its rural interstate pavement condition was 17th best and it also scored highly for capital and bridge disbursements per mile (second) despite having the seventh-largest state-controlled highway system nationally.

Mississippi was ranked 25th by the Reason Foundation overall, with its score bolstered by high marks for high maintenance disbursements per mile and low urban congestion. 

While the Mississippi legislature has opted against raising the gas tax, the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2018 will send 35 percent of use tax revenues by next year to cities and counties to assist with infrastructure.

The bill will additionally authorize $300 million in borrowing, with $250 million for the Mississippi Department of Transportation and $50 million for local infrastructure not administered by MDOT.

The other part of the package was the creation of a lottery, which started selling tickets just a couple weeks ago. The first $80 million in tax revenue annually will go to the state highway fund until 2028 and the rest will be put into the Education Enhancement Fund. Just the highway fund portion alone could add up to $720 million. 

State gasoline taxes are levied in addition to the federal tax of 18.4 cents, which hasn’t been increased since 1993.