Budget talks at the capitol are at an impasse over funding for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The stalemate means the governor will have to call a special session.
Mississippi legislators worked into the night debating budgets in the midst of stagnant revenues. With $6 billion to go around, almost all state agencies are being cut, including the Mississippi departments of mental health and human services. Mississippi Adequate Education Program will see a cut of 1.8 percent. A small number were spared reductions, such as Medicaid, the department of child protection services and public safety. House Republican John Read of Gautier, chairs the appropriations committee.
"They understand we've done all we can do because I think we've done a good product. It's not pretty. But it's a good product," said Read.
One budget report all House members agreed on was the department of transportation. They unanimously voted to send the budget back to the Senate saying it has too many pet projects. Republican Lt. Governor Tate Reeves accused House leaders of lying about their motives because they passed a similar budget last year.
"What this is about is the internet sales tax and they so badly want to raise the internet sales tax, that they're willing to blow-up a budget agreement that they agreed to," said Reeves.
During the session, the House passed a bill to use internet sales tax to fund roads and bridges. But Reeves said it was unconstitutional. Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn countered this was an attempt to address that concern. He says they aren't implementing a tax, but seeking to use the internet sales tax paid voluntarily to fund infrastructure.
"You take people like Amazon and others who voluntarily remit the tax, first $50 million of that would be exempted. The amounts between $50 million and $250 would be devoted to roads and bridges," said Gunn.
Because the Senate and House didn't reach a compromise on the department of transportation's budget, the governor must call a special session before July 1.