Two new laws in Mississippi will help address transportation needs throughout the state.
Following a five-day special session called by Gov. Phil Bryant, state lawmakers reached deals on two bills that are estimated to raise $200 million for roads and bridges once fully implemented.
After years of coming up short of the majority approval necessary to agree on a plan to help the state cover a transportation funding shortfall in the hundreds of millions, two bipartisan efforts to win favor this week at the statehouse rely on internet sales and a new lottery to aid infrastructure work around the state.
According to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the new revenue will be used to eat into a projected $400 million annual shortfall. The added funding will be applied for state and local road and bridge work.
Urgency among state officials to get a deal done was heightened in recent months as hundreds of local bridges around the state have been closed or posted with specific weight limits due to structural deficiencies.
As of mid-August, there are 437 locally owned bridges across the state closed because they are deemed to be unsafe by inspectors. Another 1,745 are posted with specific weight limits.
Local governments do not have the funds to pay their share for necessary repairs to get the bridges reopened.
The Republican governor responded by calling the GOP-led Legislature back to the capitol to get a funding plan approved and sent to his desk.
Internet sales tax, electric vehicle tax
The first new law, HB1, calls for diverting from the state to cities and counties 35 percent of sales taxes collected on internet sales for infrastructure. Once fully implemented in four years, cities and counties will divvy up revenue estimated at $120 million.
Passage also permits the state to borrow up to $300 million annually for emergency road work and specific projects that legislators will decide. Local governments will receive three-fourths of the revenue with the state claiming the rest.
A new tax will also be implemented on hybrid and electric vehicles.
In addition, as much as $15 million in sports betting revenue will be applied to transportation.
Also agreed to by House and Senate lawmakers is a new lottery to pump up to $80 million annually into transportation. Any additional revenue will be used for education.
SB2001 removes Mississippi from a list of six states without a lottery.
Removed from the bill during negotiations at the statehouse was a provision to loosen restrictions on video lottery games. Approval would have permitted the games at locations that include truck stops and fuel stations.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi, click here.
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