Democrats in the House of Representatives will offer a plan to raise $400 million for the state’s infrastructure by rolling back some incentives and increasing the amount set aside for budget contingencies.

Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis Credit: Gil Ford Photography

Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, who outlined the Democrat plan for Mississippi Today, said that increasing  the rainy-fund from 2 percent of the budget to 3 percent would raise about $180 million, Baria said.

He did not offer specific tax-cut programs the Democrats’ plan would target.

Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said he was open to seeing the Democrats’ plan but said the state should not renege on commitments to companies that were given tax incentives to move to Mississippi.

“I don’t think think we can promise tax incentives (to businesses) and then go back on our word,” Busby told Mississippi Today.

The Mississippi Economic Council published a report this year that estimates some $375 million would be needed every year to fix roads and bridges across Mississippi. That report recommends that $300 million should go toward state-owned roads and bridges while the municipalities and counties would split the remainder.

Talk of raising gas taxes to pay for roads have been common among lobbying groups and lawmakers since the current legislative session opened. Baria said the Democratic plan would not include a gas tax hike.

“We would like to do this without raising taxes at the pump on those who can least afford increased taxes,” he said.

Baria said Democrats were preparing a plan because they have been shut out of negotiations and have not seen a plan from House Republicans. The Senate passed a transportation bill that included a tax increase after hours of debate earlier in March, but critics of that bill derided it as little more than a dummy bill whose details could be changed later in the session.

Baria said Democrats will present the roads plan to officials from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the MEC early next week.

Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.