/Reeves pushes ‘$1 billion’ road funding plan for state, local projects

Reeves pushes ‘$1 billion’ road funding plan for state, local projects

Senate leaders, just two days before the deadline to pass the measure, proposed a five-year infrastructure-funding plan Monday that they say would designate more than $1 billion in state money using a mixture of grants, loans and existing revenue streams. Reeves announced the plan Monday at a news conference. “We believe it will require collaboration between cities and counties, state, and eventually federal government to meet all the needs that our state have.” The project’s funding would depend on the revenue projections being met and the achievement of certain benchmarks. * $600,000,000 would be paid from the annual two percent general reserve, which is required by law to cover revenue shortfalls. Leaders expect to set aside $112 million this fiscal year. All of the money would be deposited into a new fund for long-term infrastructure investment if state revenues exceed projections. * $240million would be available in the next fiscal year. This includes several grant programs, bond authorizations, as well as funding for what Senate leaders call “immediate need.” It would also cover city and county infrastructure repairs and $150 million in bonds to fund specific infrastructure improvements projects. The governor would direct $200 million to a new Emergency Bridge Repair Fund. This fund would also be overseen by its advisory board. It would include leaders from non-governmental special interests groups who regularly lobby for clients and give money to candidates’ campaigns. If certain triggers are met (including year-over-year growth of sales tax revenue), $125 million in sales tax revenue would be diverted to cities. An earlier version of this provision was passed in the Senate. The bill’s author stated that the $125 million target could take up to 10 years to fully phase in. The plan will bring the state’s priorities in line last week with President Donald Trump’s $200 billion plan to rebuild infrastructure across the country. Opponents of Monday’s legislation blasted the fact that they didn’t have enough time to read the 300-page bill before Wednesday’s deadline for the Senate chamber to approve it. Except for the chairman, Sen. Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall), no senators from the Senate Finance committee had ever seen the 300-page bill prior to Monday’s Senate Finance meeting. Fillingane claimed that the process was rushed due to Senate leadership waiting for President Donald Trump’s unveiling of a federal program that could send money to states. Senator David Blount (D-Jackson) stated that this is not a way to review significant legislation. “And this bill may not be as important as its supporters make it seem. “This is not what we need to address infrastructure.” Senator Hob Bryan, D.Amory, moved to table the bill for a single-day so senators could review the legislation and consider adding amendments. Fillingane strongly opposed the motion and the majority of Republicans on the Finance committee voted for him. The bill would also authorize $60,000,000 in state general obligation bonds to local bridge rehabilitation and replacement. It would also increase the amount of bonds that can be issued to local governments and rural water system improvement funds by $3 million. $5 million would be used to match federal dollars for water pollution control. Reeves stated that the plan utilizes these funding mechanisms, as well as others, to fund immediate local infrastructure needs such as county bridges and long-term rail port, water/sewer, and other needs. Fillingane stated that they didn’t consult the Mississippi Department of Transportation regarding the bill. The plan was also not approved by the Senate leadership. A number of House bills to fund infrastructure were passed through the Legislature in this session. Reeves kept his thoughts to himself on the plans, but he did spend a few moments thanking House leaders for their earlier work on Monday. Meg Annison is the director of communications at the office of Speaker Philip Gunn. Annison said that the office has not had the time to fully review the bill, aside from watching the live stream of the press conference. Annison stated that the House was leading in transportation legislation during the session. “Infrastructure is a priority for ours, so it will interest us in looking at the proposal of the lieutenant governor.” Charles Busby, chairman of House Transportation committee, said last week that Gov. Phil Bryant and Reeves were planning to present a program that would best position Mississippi to benefit from that federal program. Busby stated that they understand that the program is not going to just be a gift to the federal government. “It seems that the plan was intended to help states that are helping themselves,” Reeves’s Office says that the plan includes concepts supported by local mayors and county-level supervisors as well as bills passed by Congress, such the few that were passed during the first week of session. Reeves stated that Fillingane and Sen. Willie Simmons (D-Cleveland), helped to draft the proposal. Simmons stated that the bill would have a significant impact on economic development, commerce, and public safety. Scott Waller, the president and CEO at the Mississippi Economic Council said that the bill was a significant step towards transportation investment. However, he anticipates that lawmakers will tweak certain details of the plan if it moves forward. Waller stated that the bill incorporates many things that he believes would make a significant difference. It is meaningful legislation when you think about the billions of dollars that will be invested in the system over the next five-years.”