DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Would you pay more for gas to drive on better roads? That's the question in Mississippi.
Wear and tear on roads and bridges grows by the day, and there's not enough money to fix everything. One idea being tossed around is to make drivers pay more at the pump.
Voters, it may come as no surprise, say no. State officials are split on the issue too. Mississippians pay almost 19 cents in taxes per gallon of gas. One transportation commissioner says the state should increase it by a nickel. Others say a tax increase should be a last resort.
"I think it's already too high. We don't need to be paying more," says Marsha Kirkwood.
"That's a bunch of baloney," agrees Ray Barnett.
They're drivers who are already pinching pennies to fill up. They aren't happy to hear some want to up the gas taxes in Mississippi.
"It cost 85-90 dollars for my truck to fill up. I can only put $50 in there," Barnett says. "I can't afford to fill it."
"It would cost 90 dollars if I filled it up," Kirkwood tells abc24.com. "I get about $40-$50 a week so I can come back and forth to work.
The larger gas tax is one proposal the state's thrown out in the face of a growing budget shortfall.
"We're operating today with the same budget we had almost 25 years ago. Obviously the cost of building and maintaining our infrastructure has gone up tremendously," says Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert. He agrees there's not enough money to fix all the problems with the state's roads and bridges, but he doesn't think a gas tax hike is the answer.
"That would have to be absolutely some sort of last resort." Tagert says he'd consider other ideas, like toll roads, first.
"These are tough financial times," he says. "We need to make sure we remember that."
Drivers say a gas tax increase would hit where it hurts.
"Cause we want to go somewhere," Kirkwood says. "In order to go, you've got to spend it on gas. I live in Memphis, but I come to Southaven to get it because it's cheaper here."
That may not be the case for much longer.
Tennessee's gas tax is 21.4 cents per gallon, almost three cents more than Mississippi's. The tax issue will be presented to the state legislature when it meets again in January.