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Democrats urge bipartisan approach to infrastructure

Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

Ahead of a potential special session focused on finding a solution to the funding structure for Mississippi’s infrastructure, the Mississippi Senate Democratic Caucus has sent a letter to the Governor asking to ensure that all lawmakers are included in the process. 

“This letter is in response to your recent statements regarding a Special Legislative Session to address funding Mississippi’s transportation infrastructure needs. As you may know, our Democratic Caucus members have been keenly attuned to the need for positive, proactive legislation to not only repair roads and bridges that currently need it, but to also provide a plan for future maintenance and improvements. We need to address these issues comprehensively, with everything on the table, including re-working our tax code and creating a business long-term revenue stream. We write to assure you that we want to be part of the process to accomplish these goals.

We invite you to consider previous efforts by our members to address the problems, such as our legislative hearing on May 17, 2018, on the matter – the only one held – as we solicited input from all stakeholders in an open, public forum in addition to our previous introduction of measures creating additional revenue streams to support our transportation system.

However, we emphasize that we do not have any ideas or proposals that would preclude our desire to work collaboratively with our Republican colleagues and you to create a viable plan to fix and maintain our transportation infrastructure. The infrastructure problems that Mississippians face are too great for proposed solutions to be piecemeal and partisan. Legislative Democrats are committed to staying as long as it takes to develop a long-term solution.

In keeping with our desire for a congenial working relationship through the process, we advise that those of us who are knowledgeable in road and bridge construction and maintenance stand ready to participate in any planning of a Special Legislative Session on this matter. We believe that our participation will signal a desire by you and others in leadership to work together — transparently, inclusively, and across party lines — for the benefit of all Mississippians.

We look forward to helping solve this dangerous and persistent dilemma. Please know that we and all members of the Democratic Caucus want to be included in discussions, to have our input weighed on merits, and to help solve this problem that affects every Mississippian.”

Governor Bryant has not yet announced a special session, but he has said that one will occur if negotiations between the House and Senate continue to progress. 

“Working with the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker I think you are going to see an infrastructure bill before the end of August, probably middle of August, that will create a lot of jobs and make a lot of bridges safe for the motoring public,” Bryant said.

Recently, the Governor stated that the deal could signify a $225 million annual package that will be added to the existing funding for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. 

As for where the money may come from, the Governor wants lawmakers to explore all options.

“Are people now ready to look at funding sources like a lottery, like a use-tax, like sports betting? For at least the first five years, can we dedicate [sports betting revenue] to infrastructure? There will be challenges, but we’ve never anything this challenging easily, so I expect some strong debate,” the Governor said.

During the 2018 session, infrastructure bills were introduced, but negotiations continued to break down between the two chambers.

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