Despite the legislature recently allocating a historical amount of funds to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, Commissioner John Caldwell argues that the grants are insufficient for routine maintenance on roads and bridges.
Caldwell, who represents the state’s northern district, explained during a recent appearance on MidDays with Gerard Gibert that the nearly $2 billion in funding heading to MDOT will barely make a dent in what his district needs.
“That money we were assigned this year is specifically for capacity projects,” Caldwell said. “North Mississippi, in particular, got enough money for part of one highway… I’m just not going to brag on my heart or pat myself on the back for that. We’ve got a lot to do and there are a lot of shortfalls.”
According to Caldwell, MDOT needs roughly $400 million on a yearly basis with the sole purpose of that money being the maintenance of existing highways. However, the organization does not receive that type of funding from the state. Instead, MDOT’s primary source of revenue comes from Mississippi’s fuel tax, which is the third-lowest in the U.S.
Rather than receiving a large sum of funding that is not granted annually, Caldwell would like to see either adjustments made to the fuel tax or lawmakers find ways to tax people based on the amount of fuel they use.
“You can’t fix a road with good looks and charm. There is going to be a tax of some kind or some measure,” Caldwell said. “There’s going to have to be revenue and revenue is taxes. I’m a big fan of doing away with the income tax. I don’t think the income tax ought to be used as our mechanism to fund roads and highways. We need to look more at a user-based system.”
Caldwell said he’s eager to have similar discussions soon on how the state can better fund roads and brides and hopes lawmakers are willing to listen.
Watch the full interview with Caldwell below.