June 1, 2018 10:32:43 AM
JACKSON -- Gov. Phil Bryant told reporters Thursday that he's still exploring a special legislative session to provide more state money for Mississippi's roads and bridges.
Bryant said that a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to collect taxes on internet sales could provide a boost to Mississippi revenues.
The Republican governor said he could ask lawmakers to dedicate that money to transportation, along with proceeds from a state lottery and newly legalized sports betting.
"If you start putting the revenue numbers together they're very close to the numbers we need to support our infrastructure," Bryant said.
But while the three revenue sources together would likely provide the state with more than $100 million a year, that's well short of the $400 million that transportation commissioners say is needed to prevent deterioration of the state highway network alone. Some cities and counties also have expensive needs, as illustrated by Bryant's decision to force the closure of more than 100 local bridges after federal authorities threatened to cut off state highway aid, arguing the structures were unsafe.
Bryant on Thursday again voiced strong support for lawmakers enacting a lottery, but House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, also Republicans, have long been cool to the idea. The governor is unlikely to call a special session unless Gunn and Reeves can agree on a plan, and they've been at odds in recent months. Both are in Texas visiting Mississippi National Guard troops in training to deploy overseas and couldn't immediately be reached for comment late Thursday.
Gunn wants to divert $110 million a year in taxes collected on internet sales to cities and counties, and proposes reducing $160 million a year in income taxes and replacing them with fuel taxes. The plan would end the state's 4 percent tax bracket on income between $5,000 and $10,000, leaving Mississippi with a flat 5 percent tax on income above $10,000.
The combined changes would shift more than 4 percent of the money the state spends on other functions to roads and bridges.
Reeves has flatly ruled out any increase in the fuel tax. He wants to divert year-end cash into transportation rather than the rainy day fund. Reeves' plan would put little or no new money under control of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, giving the governor control over more than $800 million. The plan would divert $25 million a year from current state highway funding to a new emergency bridge fund.
Democrats have said they want to block planned corporate tax cuts and devote that revenue to transportation.
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