State legislators tackle Mississippi transportation issues

State legislators tackle Mississippi transportation issues

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi state legislature  passed a bill that would direct online sales tax to road and bridge projects.

The bill passed through the House on Wednesday. It includes a plan that calls for borrowing $50 million due to cover the steep cost of improving the state's aging infrastructure.

For years, lawmakers have been told roads and bridges in the state need improving. It's a priority not lost on the Governor.

"Whether it's for infrastructure, education or law enforcement we're going to need extra revenue coming into the state," said Gov. Phil Bryant.

A possible way to raise that extra revenue would be with higher taxes, which isn't a popular idea with the Republican super majority in the legislature.

"I'm not in favor of raising the taxes," said Sen. Brice Wiggins.

"Trying to come up with a way to fund it, that's the issue," said Rep. Greg Haney. "A lot of people aren't on board with raising taxes on gas."

A recent study by the Senate Transportation Committee found funds generated from gas taxes have steadily declined over the last several years.

House Speaker Philip Gunn decided the best choice was to search for the money in other areas.

"The solutions that we have searched for and have brought forward to this point all involve taking money out of growth or existing dollars," Gunn said. "We're trying to find existing savings within existing dollars or taking money out of what may come through growth."

According to a report compiled by the Trip National Transportation research group, 25% of rural roads in the state were in poor condition, fifth most in the nation.

State Representative from Biloxi Scott DeLano says another factor complicating the search for a solution is not all roads and bridges in the state are created equally.

"Roads and bridges is a very complex issue especially for the people of the Gulf Coast because we don't have near the problem with maintenance and the bridges as we do in the rest of the state," DeLano said. "I think we'll come up with a solution working through our transportation chairmen in both chambers to come up with a bill that's going to be good for the entire state, a long term strategic approach."

Also on Wednesday a House panel approved a measure that would allow the state Department of Transportation to make employment changes without following civil service rules.

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