Wednesday, September 6, 2017
You can't have your cake and eat it, too, as the old proverb goes. Similarly, you can't cut taxes and increase them, too. You can, but politically, it should be the equivalent to suicide. In discussions of increasing funding for the state's infrastructure, we need to talk about the Taxpayer Pay Raise Act as well.
The tax cut, which is the biggest in Mississippi history and the pride and joy of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, is basically a win-win-win for out-of-state corporations if and when they relocate to the state, but there is a big problem with this theory.
Most corporations, particularly those operating outside Jackson, will probably use some mode of transportation other than airplanes to move their products in and out of the state, meaning they need good, quality roads.
Melinda McGrath, the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, told senators last week that the state's highway system supports 90 percent of the state's commerce traffic. That state system is the same one that needs an increase of $400 million per year. Capacity projects are literally on hold because MDOT is focusing on preserving the state's existing highways and bridges.
The number of roads with poor pavement conditions increases every year that goes by. The state is at a critical moment—the same as it was in January of this year and in April when the House tried to force the Senate to talk about things they could have done this year to increase funding to repair roads and bridges.
Here we are well over halfway through 2017, and finally the Senate is discussing possible options that, for the record, the House presented months ago as solutions. These discussions need continue as cross-Legislature discussions, including both House and Senate members. Most Democrats and Republicans are on board with the idea that transportation is a fundamental function and responsibility of government, but how to go about raising funds when we've pledged millions of dollars from our state budget to tax cuts is the real rub.
The "Taxpayer Pay Raise Act" will continually and increasingly deplete the state's treasury for the next 15 years. So while raising taxes on gas, cigarettes, tobacco products and possibly alcohol will bring in more revenue, those funds will really just be plugging budget holes.
Lawmakers must consider the realistic state of our budget when planning ahead for roads and bridges funding. The "this will pay off eventually" mentality of the tax cuts is detrimental to getting funds to transportation costs now. Mississippians don't have time to wait—the longer we wait, the more MDOT will have to spend on repairs.
If lawmakers don't reconsider their tax cuts but choose to increase taxes on products that everyday Mississippians use, like gas, they are choosing to prioritize the wealthy business owners (who for now are still out-of-state) instead of Mississippians whom they work for in the first place. And that doesn't make a lick of damn sense. It's time to stop the delays.