Mississippi lawmakers let gasoline tax ballot proposal die

Published 9:46 pm Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Mississippi House is backing away from a proposal for a statewide election on increasing gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to pay for improvements to state highways and local roads.

House Bill 1364 died Wednesday when the House did not vote on it before a deadline. It was the last day for the House to pass the bill and send it to the Senate for more work.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Trey Lamar offered no explanation as he asked the House to kill the bill. But the move came a day after the House passed a separate bill that would make broad changes to the state tax structure, increasing some and decreasing others with the goal of eventually phasing out the personal income tax.

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Mississippi’s motor fuel tax has been 18.4 cents a gallon since 1987, and transportation officials have said for years that the tax fails to generate enough money to cover the costs of highway construction and repairs.

The bill proposed a statewide election on whether to increase the gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 14 cents a gallon. The referendum would be June 8, the same day as city elections in many parts of the state.

Lamar, a Republican from Senatobia, is the sponsor of House Bill 1364. He said last week that the state would issue $2.5 billion in bonds to pay for highways and roads, and the fuel tax would pay off that debt. The bill specified that $300 million would go to cities and counties for local road and bridge construction or repairs.