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August 22, 2018 5:30 PM, EDT

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant Convenes ‘Extraordinary Session’ on Infrastructure Funding

Infrastructure Funding I-55 South near Jackson, Miss. (formalaone/Flickr)

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant recently called for a special legislative session to discuss infrastructure funding solutions.

Lawmakers will convene in Jackson on Aug. 23, according to the Republican governor’s proclamation, which was signed Aug. 21.

“It is my judgment that the public interest requires that the Legislature be convened in extraordinary session,” Bryant states in the proclamation.

Gov. Bryant

Bryant

The first order of business listed on the document was a motion to create the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2018. The act would ensure that “an amount equal to a portion of the use tax revenue collected under the Mississippi use tax law” is distributed to municipalities so that they can support the “repair, maintenance and reconstruction” of their roads, streets and bridges. According to the proclamation, the revenue should be expended solely for infrastructure-related purposes.

A use tax is levied on purchases made outside one’s state of residence on taxable items that will be used, stored or consumed within one’s state of residence. It pertains to items on which no tax was collected in the state of purchase, such as online purchases.

Mississippi’s infrastructure faces challenges, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. The state earned an overall grade of C- on ASCE’s 2012 infrastructure report card, which is just a shade better than the nation’s overall infrastructure score of D+. ASCE’s scorecard took into account Mississippi’s dams, drinking water, roads and wastewater. Roads earned a C.

The proclamation also provided that an amount equal to a portion of use tax revenue collected is deposited into the local system bridge replacement and rehabilitation fund. Mississippi ranks No. 8 on the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s list of states with the highest number of structurally deficient bridges as a percentage of total inventory. According to ARTBA’s most recent bridge report, 11.7% of the state’s bridges classify as structurally deficient.

In April, Bryant signed a state of emergency proclamation ordering the Mississippi Department of Transportation to close 83 locally owned bridges that the National Bridge Inspection Standards and the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction deem deficient.

The proclamation also called for the creation of an emergency road and bridge repair fund, as well as a tax on electric and hybrid vehicles.

The second major point of the proclamation was an act to create a state lottery, the proceeds of which would be transferred into the state highway fund.

“Using revenue generated by internet sales taxes, sports betting, electric and hybrid vehicle user fees and a state lottery, the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act will provide more than $200 million annually to meet Mississippi’s infrastructure needs,” Bryant announced via Twitter on Aug. 21.

The governor’s special session marks the latest in a series of actions Mississippi lawmakers have taken to boost infrastructure funding. In April, two days after Bryant’s emergency proclamation about local bridges, House Speaker Philip Gunn presented an infrastructure funding plan that would divert money to transportation projects over the next several years.

Gunn’s proposal calls for a portion of use tax revenue to be allocated to municipalities to pay for road, bridge and sewer projects. Gunn’s plan proposes that 3.75% of use tax revenue is diverted to transportation funding, a sum which will increase annually until reaching 15%. The plan would take effect in fiscal 2020, which starts July 2019.