Legislature needs to do the right thing

Published 10:31 am Thursday, March 16, 2017

Winston Churchill, the legendary British prime minister, made this observation during World War II: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

The Mississippi Legislature, when it comes to finding money for highway maintenance, seems determined to prove that Churchill’s insight was wonderfully accurate.

Last week, the House approved a bill to borrow $50 million to fix or replace bridges. The bill also set aside money from voluntary Internet sales tax collections for road and bridge work. Furthermore, highways would get more money if state tax revenue increases in future years.

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The bill’s chance of becoming law is far from guaranteed. The Senate gets a second look at it, and a conference committee most likely will, too. Gov. Phil Bryant also would have to sign it.

The effort is appreciated. The Mississippi Economic Council, which for two years has pushed for more money for highway maintenance, praised the House amendment.

But the House only provided a small percentage of the $350 million per year that the MEC says the state needs to spend to keep its highway system in good shape. Borrowing money is a onetime patch that only adds to the state’s debt.

The obvious solution — the right thing, as Churchill might put it — is a sizable increase in the state gasoline tax. Republicans who are in charge of the Legislature haven’t gotten there yet. They’re still trying everything else.

—The Greenwood Commonwealth