The Mississippi Department of Transportation released two videos on their YouTube Channel this week in effort to show how the agency is funded and how it is held accountable for the funds it spends.
“One of the reoccurring things I hear quite often is ‘Where does that money go?’” said Melinda McGrath, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. “When you think of a billion dollar budget, that’s a lot of money to wrap your mind around.”
In January, all three commissioners led simultaneous press conferences announcing an 8-year plan for road and bridge repairs that would require $400 million in additional funding for the department. The videos were posted in the middle of the legislative session as it weighs spending decisions for next fiscal year.
“It’s always been our goal to be more transparent and more accountable,” McGrath said. “And for citizens and taxpayers to understand what we do and why we do it … So we are trying to put things out there to start explaining where the money comes from and how we are held accountable.”
The videos detail everything form the amount of money that passes through MDOT and into localities to the segment of the budget that goes towards road and bridge work.
The videos came out right in the middle of the session during a time when legislators are considering annual appropriations and looking for ways to cut the budget.
House Speaker Philip Gunn last week called for a study of road repair needs, while at the same time supporting a bond bill providing $50 million for road construction. The House also passed a bill creating a tax on purchases made on the internet, directing that money collected through that tax would be used for state and local road construction projects.
Not everyone is convinced that MDOT is getting the most out of the money it receives.
“I just have to believe that in a budget that large and an agency with that many employees some efficencies can be found,” Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall. “I’m not sure our legislative body has been satisfied that those efficencies have been found.
“I need them to substantiate to me that they are doing all they can with the current dollars they are receiving,” Fillingane said. “That they are spending dollars in the most efficient manner possible.”
“The legislators remind me that MDOT needs to work harder in explaining what we do,” McGrath said. “It is not aimed directly at them, but it reminds me that MDOT has to be more transparent.”
“We’ve got to explain where that money is going,” she said. “There are too many people making accusations that we do whatever we want and spend whatever we want with no rhyme or reason. There is rhyme and reason.”
Here are the MDOT videos, which were produced by the department: