Roads bill likely dead, Republican leader says

Print More
Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula

Mississippi House of Represenatives

Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula

A key Republican House leader says a transportation-funding plan is likely dead for this session, but Democratic members say they are moving ahead with plans to offer their own proposal.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, told the Associated Press on Friday that passing an infrastructure bill was unlikely. Busby said House members prefer trimming the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s budget over raising taxes for road improvements.

Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, who told Mississippi Today last week that Democrats have a plan to pay for transportation by eliminating some corporate tax subsidies, said his Democratic colleagues still plan to meet with MDOT and Department of Revenue officials Monday afternoon.

“I think there’s still an opportunity here, but I’m disappointed the leadership seems to be giving up on it—so we’re going to keep trying,” Baria said.

Busby did not immediately return messages Monday, but told the AP some of the funding ideas he floated to representatives included raising sales taxes to 9 percent from 7 percent and eliminating the sales tax on groceries. Another proposal was going from an 18-cents-per-gallon fuel tax to a 10 percent sales tax that includes a 20-cents-per-gallon floor and a 30-cents-per-gallon ceiling. None of those proposals gained favor with his colleagues, he said.

The Mississippi Economic Council released the results of a poll on Friday that show more than 60 percent of Mississippi voters support a “reasonable tax and fee increase” for infrastructure improvements. The poll shows that 85 percent of Mississippians overall support spending more money on fixing roads and bridges.

The poll of 625 Mississippi voters, by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, had a margin of error of four percentage points. The poll showed that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats backed raising taxes to improve roads.

In a report published earlier this year, the MEC estimated that $375 million is needed annually to fix roads and bridges across Mississippi. The Senate passed a placeholder bill earlier in the session; Senate Transportation Committee chairman Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, was also unavailable for comment this morning.

Busby told Mississippi Today last week that although he is open to hearing alternative plans, he believes rolling back tax incentives would draw opposition from lawmakers.