Below is an opinion published in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal regarding MAS' position on the need to increase road and bridge funding. See below for link to original article.
OUR OPINION: Road, bridge maintenance ignored, won’t go away
Reprinted from www.djournal.com
Despite studied indifference in the highest echelons of Mississippi’s Republican Party leadership, the issue of maintaining our state’s highways and bridges in safe condition won’t go away.
A statewide effort, led by the pro-business Mississippi Economic Council, to win approval this year of a maintenance and bridge rebuilding program hardly stirred the water.
It is a testament to the issue’s inarguable importance that it will not die among a handful of outnumbered and outspoken GOP legislators and leaders.
MEC’s push for $375 million in additional annual maintenance and bridge revenue was backed by the logical arguments and support of groups like the Mississippi Association of Supervisors and the Mississippi Farm Bureau, but nothing happened.
Farm Bureau and the MAS make persuasive arguments about the impact on their large and influential constituencies and the state at large, but the key movers and shakers act tone deaf.
Zachary Oren Smith, reporting for Mississippi Today, recently wrote extensively about the failed lobbying effort, noting that the plan’s due diligence was done by MEC in collaboration with researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University and the Stennis Institute of Government.
MEC talked about several methods for funding the infrastructure investment, but the initiative went nowhere.
At hearings by special legislative committees looking at state spending, Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, asked Transportation Department Executive Director Melinda McGrath for her assessment of Mississippi’s roads and an estimate for how much additional funding is required.
McGrath’s answer was consistent with what she and other Mississippi Department of Transportation Leaders have said all along: $400 million is the adequate figure, even higher than MEC’s proposal.
No one even asked how that could be funded.
Smith reported that the MAS continues its eight years of support of maintenance and bridges as the top legislative priority
MAS Executive Director Derrick Surrette said there is great resistance to a tax increase.
“We walked the halls trying to push for road and bridge funding,” Surrette said. “I heard a lot of talk, ‘Well, nobody wants a tax increase. There is just not enough money to go around.’ Well that’s duh-huh talk. … Let’s graduate to the third and fourth grade, and let’s start thinking about why we need to do this, and how we are going to do this.”
Surrette hit the nail on the head when he said that any change in infrastructure funding is going to require Democrats and Republicans to be in the same room talking through their options.
If that once was a common practice it no longer is. The partisanship in the Capitol has declared the other side unclean.
Surrette said everybody in their right mind understands not enough money produces not enough maintenance.
Until there is consensus on the necessity of expanded funding, Mississippi won’t spend enough to maintain its roads and bridges.
Click here for original opinion.