Home » OPINION » Columns » BILL CRAWFORD — Fuel tax issue will show Republicans can lead, or not

BILL CRAWFORD — Fuel tax issue will show Republicans can lead, or not



The Governor, Lt. Governor and Legislators started new four-year terms this month. Most are returnees. Most are Republicans. The main difference between now and four years ago is that Republicans now hold “super” majorities in both the House and Senate. That means they can pass revenue, tax, and bond bills (along with general and appropriations bills) with Republican votes only.

Republicans already held a super majority in the Senate, which threw out Republican Sen. Melanie Sojourner’s election challenge, seating former Democratic Sen. Bob Dearing instead. 
But they only gained a super majority in the House from a highly political decision to boot out longtime Democrat Rep. Bo Eaton. Eaton had “won” when he pulled the long straw against Republican challenger Mark Tullos after they tied. House members accepted Tullos’ challenge, unseating Eaton.
A special House committee chaired by Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon concluded five affidavit ballots for Eaton should not have been counted. Baker said voters were obligated by law to tell local election officials their new address within 30 days after moving. He said disregarding affidavit votes by people who failed to change their address on election records made Tullos the winner. 
This conclusion by the committee contradicted the Secretary of State’s office which had told local election officials to count the affidavit ballots.
It also contradicted House Speaker Philip Gunn, as revealed by Clarion-Ledger writer Geoff Pender:
“In 2003, when he (successfully) challenged his primary loss to incumbent Republican Rep. Jep Barbour, Gunn argued the Hinds County Election Commission was wrong when it threw out seven affidavit ballots for the same reason. In his court filing at the time, Gunn said that, ‘Such an interpretation of this statute is incorrect … one is entitled to vote by affidavit ballot if he has lived in the county for 30 days ,,, There is no provision … that says that one who has moved more than 30 days before the election cannot vote by affidavit.’”
In power politics what’s good for the gander is seldom good for the goose.
So, will now all-powerful Republican legislators show they can provide strong, good government leadership? We’ll learn pretty soon. 
As every knows, Mississippi has a road and bridge crisis. 
“I see first-hand that we are on the verge of losing our competitive edge,” says Joe F. Sanderson, Chairman and CEO of Sanderson Farms and chair of a special Blueprint Mississippi task force. “Roads across our state are beginning to crumble. Bridges aren’t safe.” 
The solution is quite simple, as pointed out by the task force, raise user fees and taxes on fuel to provide the money needed to fix our roads and bridges. 
But, as everyone knows, the political will among Republican legislators to raise any fees or taxes is virtually non-existent. 
If the Republican majority cannot provide the strong leadership needed to resolve this critical infrastructure problem, we can expect many highly political decisions, but few good government decisions from them over the next four years. 
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)


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  1. So 3/4 of an article supposedly about fuel tax is actually about counting challenged votes in legislative elections, and not about fuel taxes. Pitiful.

  2. It is as appropriate to discuss a stolen election as it is to advocate a gasoline tax increase to fix our crumbling roads and bridges. I hope the five people who had their legitimate ballots thrown out sue the speaker and the house and get justice.
    I also hope the legislature can do the right thing and raise the gas tax by 10 or 15 cents a gallon and peg future increases to the increased average fuel economy of the state’s aggregate fleet. There is no better time to raise the necessary road and bridge funds than when fuel prices are ate near-historic lows.

    • Yes it certainly is. My point was that that’s not the topic of this article. He could do that in an article about elections, not about fuel taxes.

      • I think the author was trying to bring into focus that Republicans have control but don’t want to raise on fuel which would help with our bridges and roads! The title of the article is “Fuel tax issue will show Republicans can lead, or not”, which is basically what the article was about. I don’t see how you missed that John!

  3. The first 8 paragraphs never mention fuel taxes or leadership.

  4. TITLE: Tax me, tax me on my usage if you must, it will not work… but if you tax me, those taxes better be used only for the right purposes or refunded back to me not siphoned off to do other “good works”

    I totally disagree with the statement “The solution is quite simple, as pointed out by the task force, raise user fees and taxes on fuel to provide the money needed to fix our roads and bridges. ” — That is opinion, not fact, and just because a task force looked at it doesn’t make it right — It is not a simple matter to add taxes on usages.

    I do agree that MS roads and bridges are in horrible shape. Is that because of lack of funds or lack of ability of contractors to be held accountable? Is that because there is little to no responsibility to the contractor to build a road that lasts?

    If a road crumbles, splits or has huge potholes within weeks of being repaired, is it because we do not have funds, or because we do not require a strong warranty in the form of a performance bond.

    Or are bad roads a result of bad planning, political routing, overloaded trucks, or trucks hauling gravel and dirt and leaving most of their load on the road behind them? A comprehensive approach to preservation of existing roads, enforcement of existing laws, and new laws that require those who tear up the roads fix them with their own money.

    However, back on topic, user fees on fuel prices has been shown in many places around the country and the world (CA, WV, Venezuela, France) to not be a reliable source of revenue. As Fuel prices increase, the pressure on the individual to make ends meet is increased. As Fuel prices decrease, the loss of revenue puts pressure on law makers to make additional changes. As alternative fuels, alternative methods of transportation, and modernization happens, lawmakers freakout and attempt to try to recover those user fees.

    Additionally, when you consider that a breath of wind in the South Atlantic can cause oil companies to shut down rigs, reduce production and hike up fuel costs the uncertainty of fuel prices is not something I want tied the fix for roads and bridges.

    Recent history ($4-$5 a gallon fuel prices) shows that if you drive up the price at the pump and more alternatives are found to going to the pump the intended or projected taxes really do not increase but they actually decrease and both Liberals and Conservatives politicians scramble for alternative ways to obtain the revenue they have already spent on other programs.

    Furthermore, most governments around the world who try this tactic, of adding fuel fees based on usage, fail because the funds do not stay allocated to where they were originally intended. It has happened in MS also, and that my friends is the source of the problem. Federal Highway funds and State taxes have lined the pockets of Republicans and Democrats alike at every level of government. Unless or until we put a wall around funds collected for the intended purposes (and refund those funds to those who paid those taxes when there is excess) the situation will not be resolved with new taxes.

    • Great Post KD. I moved to MS from TX in 95 because the progressives was killing a great State. I suggest two small solution’s that I witnessed firsthand. If you take a contract to build anything and your work does not hold up for a minimum of 10 years, your bond is forfeited, and the bond should be 10 times the amount of the contract. Next is strict enforcement of weight restrictions . A slight overload of 1000# is a 1000$ fine and increases by 1000$ for each additional pound. Now the math will immediately make all loads road legal. Example; load is limited to 60,000 # tare and it scales at 61000#. The fine is $100.00 + $1000.00 penalty. next load is 65000#. $100.00 fine plus $5000.00 penalty and the vehicle does not move until road legal. The State will have to build bigger holding pens and set up an auction process for all the impounded equipment and cargo.
      Finally, your point of funds assessed for highway fund are for Highway fund and not new furniture for the new administration.

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