July 01, 2008

More fuel for the fire...

As if the article from 2 weeks ago wasn't enough, there's been a spate of new articles lately reflecting on MDOT's funding woes, including this SunHerald article, also published today by the ClarionLedger), and even picked up by Forbes. There's also this article from a week ago (originally published by the ClarionLedger). Then there's a letter from Wayne Brown, the Southern District Commissioner.

Two items I found of interest. First is that MDOT's annual construction budget has stayed relatively even for the past several years. And we all know what inflation has done over that timeframe.

Second is that this is just now hitting the mainstream media in Mississippi, when it has long been noted as a problem in other states. I'm thinking, as I noted in my previous blog entry, that this is a result of MDOT's "Katrina money" running out...most of the post-Katrina reconstruction having run its course...and now they're feeling the pinch.

And solving the problem won't be easy. This is a state that has long had an aversion to high taxes. Plus you have a population that is very rural and drives a lot as a result who would be hit even worse by higher gas prices, and so is well opposed to a gas tax increase, even though that gas tax money would go back to the roads and is thus far the fairest way to pay for them. Then to top it off, you have a lot of people mad at MDOT for the way they run business...and their "elected transportation commission" in particular, as exemplified in this ClarionLedger editorial from last week. So you'd have opposition to increased funding for MDOT on the simple basis of the people running the MDOT show.

Bottom line: it's going to be a rough ride for awhile (pun intended).

1 comment:

Anthony Kennerson said...

Interesting article, Froggie...and probably typical of the issues that states are facing regarding highway and transportation funding in the wake of $4/gallon gas and skyrocketing building costs.

I'm not sure how Mississippi collects and distributes their gasoline taxes and user fees and other revenue, but I'm more than a bit certain that if they are anything like Louisiana, they focus their emphasis more on so-called "megaprojects" such as I-69 or the proposed toll parkway to Jackson's airport or the proposed freeway from Jackson to Gulfport/Biloxi via US 49; rather than maintaining and upgrading their existing roads. Not that those projects aren't worthy and probably useful , I'd probably would rather that those kind of projects be either basically Federally funded (especially in the case of I-69, which in my view should be funded under the old 90% Federal/10% State financial ratio since it will be an Interstate corridor) or possibly funded as a toll route (especially in the case of the US 49 corridor freeway or a similar corridor from Jackson to Mobile via US 98).

But I do agree with some of the editorials cited on the need to seriously reform the agencies and make them more accountable to a more centralized authority. I'd still prefer increasing and indexing the gas tax and user fees to pay for greater capacity for "free" roads rather than tolls...but considering the political obstacles, any alternative that would work would be fine by me.