Those who support raising revenue to meet transportation needs say the key is to get the Mississippi business community on board with a tax increase proposal.
If the business community is on board, they reason it will be easier to get such an effort through a state Legislature where many members oppose raising taxes and others are scared of the political consequences of being for a tax increase.
The question is which will come first – the business community support or the support of the legislative leadership, namely Gunn and Reeves?
Supporters of a tax increase cite the historic 1987 Four-Lane Program, which raised the gasoline tax to the current 18.4 cents per gallon, as an example of what can be done with the strong backing of the business community.
But there are some distinct differences between now and 1987. For instance, legislative campaigns have become much more sophisticated and there are political consultants who are adept at exploiting every legislative vote – particularly a tax increase.
Plus, then-House Transportation Chair John David Pennebaker of New Albany and Vice Chair Billy McCoy of Rienzi were credited with helping build support for the 1987 program with a series of meetings across the state. Simmons is hoping to hold similar meetings, but will they, with all due respect, be taken seriously, if the legislative leaders are not on board with any tax increase?
Without the active support of the legislative leadership, it is hard to envision any tax increase going far in the legislative process.