Yes, the Mississippi chapter of Americans for Prosperity is right that we don't need excessive new taxes for road and bridge repairs.
So, yes, the Mississippi Senate was right to kill the 8 percent sales tax hike on fuel proposed by Senate Transportation and Highways Committee Chairman Willie Simmons.
But, Americans for Prosperity is wrong that we don't need any additional taxes for road and bridge repairs. We desperately do.
What Americans for Prosperity should be about is promoting conservative tax plans for essential government services like road and bridge repairs.
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User taxes have long been the conservative way to fund government services. You use it, you use it up, you pay for repairs and new ones. It costs more, you pay more.
Mississippi uses fuel taxes as the user taxes to pay for roads and bridges. Since fuel taxes were increased in 1987, costs to fix roads and bridges have skyrocketed as thousands of miles of four-lane highways and hundreds of bridges have been added.
It's time for users to pay more. Choosing the right plan to pay more is the challenge.
Raising taxes when prices go up is not a conservative plan. That's what a sales tax does. Eight percent sales tax today on $1.99 regular gasoline would up taxes 16 cents. But, when prices jump back up to $3.50, and they will, the tax would jump to 28 cents.
The most conservative plan would be a tax that works the opposite of a sales tax, one that goes down when fuel prices go up. Americans for Prosperity should push for tax innovations such as this, not oppose taxes for essential services.
Here's how such a plan could work.
Since prices are down, add 20 cents per gallon to fuel taxes now. Next April 30 and each year thereafter, the Mississippi Department of Revenue looks at the average price of unleaded regular gas in Mississippi. If the average price (including taxes) is below $2.75, the full added tax stays on for the next fiscal year (July 1 through June 30). If the average price is above $2.75 but below $3.50, the added tax drops to 15 cents for the next year. If it is above $3.50, the added tax drops to 10 cents for the next year. If gas prices come back down after going up, the tax would go back up.
Americans for Prosperity should couple a conservative tax plan with its demands to make the Department of Transportation more efficient. That's good, conservative government at its best.
Having killed Simmons' plan, the Senate failed to come up with any plan. Instead senators passed a bond and tax bill that simply brings forward existing road and bridge funding statutes with no changes.
Now that bill is in the House where, so far, Americans for Prosperity has been working to kill it.
To really be for prosperity, Americans for Prosperity should be fighting for a conservative plan, not trying to kill the bill.
Write Bill Crawford, a syndicated columnist from Meridian, at firstname.lastname@example.org.