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Lawmakers hope for quick special session

We’re one day away from a special session of the Mississippi Legislature, so how much will it cost taxpayer’s in the state?

According to Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden, the cost of a special session ranges from around $30,000 to over $40,000 per day. As lawmakers make their way back to Jackson, Snowden said that they’re all aware of this matter, and the money becomes a motivating factor to get in and get out as quickly as possible. 

“That’s why we are very conscious of coming in and getting our work done. So hopefully, we’ll have an arrangement worked out,” he said. “We pretty much know the details of what’s being proposed when we get there, so hopefully, we can wrap it up in a day or two.”

Speaking of an arrangement, the Governor recently stated that the House and Senate are putting the “final touches” on the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act.

Snowden mentioned that discussions have taken place between Republicans and Democrats as they work toward a funding strategy for Mississippi’s roads and bridges. 

Snowden went on to say the core of the new act will be similar to a bill which was passed unanimously in the House during the 2018 session. The bill works to divert “use-tax” dollars to infrastructure, and with the recent ruling on the collection of internet sales tax in Mississippi, a large boost in funding could be the end result. 

“That’s money that’s coming into the state of Mississippi,” Snowden said. “It may be as much as $380 million in additional revenue over time with the ‘use tax’. That’s something that we’re looking at diverting 35% of to cities and counties for roads, bridges and sewer projects.”

As for additional revenue streams, in his call of the special session, Governor Bryant stated that several new streams of funding may be created, such as a state lottery. 

“Using revenue generated by internet sales taxes, sports betting, electric and hybrid vehicle user fees and a state lottery, the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act will provide more than $200 million annually to meet Mississippi’s infrastructure needs,” Governor Bryant said.

Mississippi recently became just the fourth state in the nation to offer sports betting, and the state will now benefit from a portion of the dollars collected at casinos across Mississippi. As for the lottery, it has been a widely-debated topic in the state for some time, but it appears one will soon arrive. 

The lottery will have to be proposed in the Senate, as Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has continued to oppose it. While he wouldn’t vote for one, Gunn did say that he won’t block one.

“If the Senate passes it and brings it over to us then we will deal with it then, but I am just not a fan of the lottery,” Gunn said. “I have studied it extensively. I have, I think, good policy reasons why it is bad. It is just bad public policy in my opinion, but I am just one guy with one opinion and I think I am in the minority on that. Overwhelmingly, people of the state want it and I think many of our politicians are willing to vote for it, but Philip Gunn will not vote for it because I think it is bad public policy.”

In his call, the Governor also stated that they will discuss a solution for the BP oil settlement funds. He said that the plan will “prioritize the gulf coast’s economy”. 

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