“It is important we find additional revenue to spend on roads and bridges,” Reeves, a second-term Republican, said Monday at a luncheon meeting of the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government/capitol press corps. “We are hoping to do that this session.”
But when Reeves was asked what the source of the additional revenue might be, he said he was not ready to reveal that.
Reeves reiterated that he does not believe increasing the 18.4 cent per gallon tax on motor fuel, the primary source of state funding for the Department of Revenue, can garner the votes to pass the Legislature. In the past, he has voiced opposition to increasing the gasoline tax.
He appeared to take a swipe at five transportation bills pending before the House, saying, “If the bills solved the infrastructure problems, the Senate may just pass those … and move on to the next issue.”
Those five bills, taken up last week, during the opening days of the 2018 session, would divert a portion of state revenue growth to the Department of Transportation, provide bond funds for substandard bridges, limit new construction and remove civil service protection for Transportation employees. Most concede the bills would not solve the issue of the gas tax not generating enough revenue to deal with the state’s and local government’s infrastructure maintenance needs.
While Reeves said the Senate would deal with the issue, he offered no specifics Monday.
Reeves did say that priorities for him would be a rewrite of the funding formula that provides state funds to local school districts and expanding to all students a program that provides vouchers to special needs students to attend private schools.
Reeves spent a large portion of his speech saying he is optimistic about the future of the state and defending the multiple tax cuts passed in recent years that will cost state coffers about $750 million (in today’s dollars) when fully phased in.
Reeves said it appears state revenue is beginning to grow again after being sluggish for multiple years.
But Reeves said the purpose of the tax cuts, especially the tax cuts for corporations, was to make Mississippi competitive with other states in attempts to lure and retain businesses and not necessarily to generate additional revenue.
“The tax cuts were never about increasing revenue,” he told the luncheon group that included reporters, lobbyists and other interested political observers.
Reeves added, though, that he believes the tax cuts eventually will generate additional revenue.
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