Gov. Phil Bryant

Editor’s note: After receiving confirmation from Gov. Phil Bryant’s office, Mississippi Today reported that Bryant would call a special session on Thursday, August 16. Later, Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler told Mississippi Today the governor’s call would be made August 17.

Legislators will likely be returning to Jackson Aug. 23 or 24 to consider proposals, including perhaps the enactment of a lottery, to deal with what most agree is a crumbling state infrastructure system.

Officials said Gov. Phil Bryant plans to announce the special session sometime Thursday. Since at least 2014, legislators have been grappling with how to generate funds to deal with transportation needs on both the state and local levels.

Even as the governor calls the special session, it is not clear there is agreement between House and Senate leadership on transportation proposals. In the past, Bryant, a second term Republican, has not called special sessions unless there was agreement between the House and Senate leaders on the subject of the special session.

In the past, Bryant has spoken of enacting a lottery with the revenue going to transportation needs. Mississippi is one of six states that does not have a lottery.

He also has proposed diverting both use tax from internet sales (7 percent on most retail items) and of diverting revenue from sports betting to transportation. Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court this year gave states the authority to collect use tax on internet sales and to allow sports betting.

Mississippi casinos already are beginning to offer sports betting.

It has been estimated that the Mississippi Department of Transportation needs an additional $400 million per year to deal with the state needs. In addition, on the local level counties have been forced to close about 500 bridges for safety years.

Based on estimates, the lottery and diversions would generate around $150 million annually for transportation.

Legislative leaders have balked at increasing the state’s 18.4-cent per gallon motor fuel tax, which is one of the lowest in the nation.

Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.