Reeves and Gunn need to come together and resolve transportation funding issue
Published 6:41 pm Thursday, April 12, 2018
A special session of the Mississippi Legislature could be on the horizon this summer to deal with the ailing transportation infrastructure after Gov. Phil Bryant ordered 83 bridges closed Tuesday, saying the list of more than 100 locally maintained bridges could expand.
The U.S. Department of Transportation sent the governor a letter last week to say Mississippi’s bridge-inspection program was not meeting federal standards. Bryant said Mississippi was at risk of losing some federal transportation money.
The Office of State Aid Road Construction said Wednesday that 102 unsafe bridges are in more than a dozen counties. Fortunately, Warren County is currently not on that list but Mississippi Department of Transportation executive director Melinda McGrath said the list of bridges could continue to change as counties submit more information to the state aid road office.
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During their nearly three-month regular session, the House and Senate couldn’t reach a consensus on how to pay for the needs of transportation improvements.
They still seem far apart.
Mississippi House leaders are proposing a tax swap to put hundreds of millions more dollars into highway bridges. Their four-year plan would phase out the 4 percent income tax bracket and a gasoline tax increase would be phased in. House Speaker Philip Gunn says more money would be directed towards infrastructure. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, however, opposes any increase to the state gas tax and says Senate leaders will stick with a transportation plan they proposed during the regular session.
Bryant needs to get Gunn and Reeves in a room and iron out resolving their differences before calling a special session that would do nothing but waste tax payer money.
One thing is certain, if Mississippi’s leaders can’t come together the Federal Highway Administration will eventually make good on their threat and it will be folks who use the state roads that will lose.