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House Passes Infrastructure Bill Without Funding For Now

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House Passes Infrastructure Bill Without Funding For Now
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Mississippi House of Representatives
MPB's Mark Rigsby

Mississippi lawmakers are putting their votes behind a bill to fund roads and bridges. But as MPB's Desare Frazier there's no money available yet.

Lawmakers in the House passed a measure that ties Mississippi road and bridge improvements to the state's economic growth. House Bill 354 provides up to $100 million dollars to maintain and repair existing infrastructure. But the bill only kicks-in when general fund revenues rise above two percent. Republican John Read of Gautier chairs the appropriations committee. He says growth is at about one percent. Right now there's no money for the fund.

"Like Arkansas and Tennessee right now are about two, 2.5 percent growth. We're one. You give us another 1.5 percent growth we'd be able to put some money, we couldn't fully fund but we'd get some money to start some things," said Read.

Options like raising the gas or tobacco tax have been discussed as funding sources. But Read says legislators won't pass tax increases. House Democrat Robert Johnson of Natchez says they have to move on the problem.

"We need to come up with a funding formula that will give us the money we need to fix our roads. That's it. That's simply it," said Johnson.

No one knows how much money would be generated if state revenues rise above two percent. Scott Waller heads the Mississippi Economic Council. Their study found it would take $375 million per year, over ten years to bring roads and bridges up to standard. He sees value in having a dedicated fund. But he wants to know what can be done this legislative session.

"Where are dollars available if there are any and secondly what is the impact of them if they are shifted from one agency to the other," said Waller.

House lawmakers also passed a bond bill to help cities and counties pay for bridge improvements.