I recently read an editorial which made some pretty broad sweeping statements and included some name calling against the highway construction industry, specifically the asphalt pavement industry. These slanted statements were, naturally, favorable to Tate Reeves; and they provided a distorted picture of both Bill Waller, Jr. and his pragmatic solutions he’ll implement if he is elected Governor. And while we normally would never gratify such misinformation with a response - we thought it would be worthy to do so in this instance, particularly with the importance of the current GOP primary runoff and its future implications on Mississippi’s road & bridge infrastructure.
The opinion piece says, “Special interests like the asphalt contractors want Reeves to raise the gas tax so MDOT Commissioners have a bigger slush fund”. To the assertion that the asphalt contractors are “special interest” - This negative connotation is particularly insulting. Asphalt contractors and their suppliers & vendors, which span from each corner of the state and everywhere in between, provide a necessary service to the state of Mississippi. In so doing, these companies provide well-paying & meaningful career paths to tens of thousands of Mississippians. As a result, these employees stimulate their local economies by buying groceries, gas and other goods. These companies and their employees pay their fair share of local, state, and federal taxes. At the local level asphalt contractors provide scholarships, sponsor community activities, and patronize charitable causes to name a few. You won’t hear that in the attack ads. In the spirit of political election cycles, asphalt contractors and their suppliers & vendors “sign the front side of a check – not just the back side”. A quick google search will show the definition of special interest is a group of people or an organization seeking or receiving special advantages, typically through lobbying. We are not trying to receive special advantages. We want to keep our businesses operating. We are trying to keep our employees employed so they can feed their families. We don’t think that’s too much to ask. And any claim to the contrary is offensive to an industry that provides so much to the state of Mississippi yet receives such little respect from some who are seeking public office.
The Department of Transportation (MDOT) and its elected Commissioners do the best job they can with a funding model put in place 32 years ago. And despite the repeated attacks they’re nationally recognized for the good job they do with what they’re provided. The countless legislative studies, audits, and attacks have never found any major inefficiencies or the “slush fund” that’s alleged.
The opinion piece further states that Reeves is, “…standing up to the highway contractors…” as if we are supporting something that’s not a basic function of government. Mississippi’s roads are in awful shape. Thousands of miles need to be reconstructed or repaved. There are hundreds of bridges that are closed and need to be fixed. We have expansion needs where we need to add lanes in our metropolitan areas. There are overwhelming highway safety issues. These infrastructure problems don’t fix themselves. And they certainly haven’t been adequately tended to in the last 8 years.
There is one common denominator across the United States where States are improving their infrastructure – that is a Governor who leads the effort. In the runoff election on August 27th , we believe there is only one candidate for Governor who possesses the leadership and fortitude to do what needs to be done to fix Mississippi’s road and bridge problems. That candidate is Bill Waller, Jr.
Michael B. Arnemann
Mississippi Asphalt Pavement Association