Hosemann’s “local option” gasoline tax

New Albany MS Hosemann's local option gasoline tax
Lieutenant-Governor-Elect Delbert Hosemann, Tupelo, MS 2017
December 26th, 2019     Featured Opinion

News and Commentary:

What about Delbert Hosemann’s “local option” gasoline tax?

Would a local option gasoline tax help fix neglected streets and rural roads and dangerous – or closed — rural bridges in northeast Mississippi?

What are the chances local voters would approve such a tax in a local referendum?

Those questions became more relevant last week when Lieutenant-Governor-Elect Delbert Hosemann appeared to favor such a scheme in a news conference right before the Christmas holiday.

It was not the first time Hosemann had floated the idea of a local option gasoline tax.

He discussed it during the fall campaign. Published reports in September 2019, said Hosemann’s plan would allow Mississippi county boards of supervisors to place a local gas tax on a referendum ballot. Voters in those counties could then vote to impose a gasoline tax of from two to six cents per gallon.

The county would have to share the gas tax revenue with the municipalities within is borders. The money might be earmarked for specific road or bridge improvements.

Will a local option gasoline tax really address all the problems?

Details of Hosemann’s gasoline tax plan have yet to be published as proposed legislation.

The devil, as always, is in the details. Old Satan would certainly have a grand and gleeful time crafting Hosemann’s skeletal idea into a fleshed-out, working program to fix Mississippi’s neglected roads and bridges.

At first blush Hosemann’s idea might be helpful – if voters approve – in fixing local roads and bridges, those owned by counties and municipalities.

But what would it do for the state-owned roads and bridges that are in sad shape?

A Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) study in 2015 said there were 38,000 miles of roads and highways needing work. About two-thirds of those were state roads, not city or county roads. The MEC study said that of the thousands of Mississippi bridges needing repair or replacement, about 900 are on state-owned roads.

Those who know him say Hosemann is the smartest guy in state government. When he moves, after 12 years as Mississippi’s secretary of state, into the lieutenant-governor’s chair, he also becomes the most powerful guy in state government. His powers of appointing committees and setting the agenda in the state senate make him far more powerful under the state constitution than the governor.

Although we do not know Hosemann, we have trusted the judgement of friends who say he’s the smartest. We supported him in the primary and general election.

We expect of him really meaningful improvements in the state’s public education system, its health care system and its roads and bridges.

– Jerry Shiverdecker

Here’s why citizens need to keep a close watch when the state juggles local funding sources.

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