Photo by Sue WatsonBill Kinkade
State’s crumbling infrastructure
The Mississippi House and Senate are split on how to come up with a $100 million plan this year to repair roads and bridges – the state’s crumbling infrastructure, according to Rep. Bill Kinkade of Marshall County.
He said he expects a state of emergency issued by Gov. Phil Bryant will lead to some action on coming up with money to prevent the closing of some 100 bridges in Mississippi. Most of these bridges are located in central and south Mississippi, Kinkade said.
He also praised Marshall County leadership for staying on top of infrastructure maintenance with only one bridge closed in the county to date in District 5.
“We’ve been working on this infrastructure problem for three years,” Kinkade said. “A basic function of state government is to provide safe roads and bridges.”
There are several reasons the roads and bridges need to be brought back up to standards, Kinkade said.
First, leadership owes it to its citizens to provide safe travel for school buses. Second, the economy is affected if state and county roads and bridges are closed or not kept up to standards.
“I’m extremely proud of Marshall County,” Kinkade said. “Our supervisors have done a really good job of maintaining roads and bridges. We dedicate a lot of resources to do it, but we do it.”
He said many counties in the lower two-thirds of the state are not putting in the resources needed to keep up their infrastructure.
The House has developed about six plans it proposed to address the bridge problem, but at the end of the session April 25, HB722 was dead in the water, having gained no traction with the Senate.But both branches are working hard to try to resolve the issue by developing a bill that would fund the bridge repairs and one that would be acceptable to all parties.
The House version would swap an income tax cut for a 2 cents a gallon gasoline tax. The current state gas tax is 18.4 cents a gallon and would go up to 20.4 cents per gallon.
This plan is attractive to some lawmakers because the use tax on gasoline would be shared by travelers who come from outside the state for business or pleasure. The use tax would help pay the bill.
Kinkade said one plan would take 35 percent of the state use tax collection and divert it to the counties and municipalities for four years to create $140 million for roads and bridges. The state would also divert about $60 million a year for the next five years from the Rainy Day Fund to raise $300 million for infrastructure.
The House would allocate $25 million to the 82 counties and another $25 million to the municipalities and hold out about five percent for small grants to municipal governments, he said.
Kinkade said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves opposes the tax swap.
Failure to address the deteriorating bridge problem threatens both public safety and federal funding to the state of Mississippi.
Kinkade said he expects the legislators will want to resolve this funding issue for road and bridge maintenance in order to keep it from becoming an election-year issue.