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 everyone 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.

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