Lawmakers approve MDOT's $1.2 billion budget request - - Jackson, MS

Lawmakers approve MDOT's $1.2 billion budget request

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The Mississippi Department of Transportation got the money it needs to operate for the next year. But don't think that means a flood of improvements for the roads and bridges you drive every day.

How to make that happen is something that's still a sticking point at the legislature.

"1.2 billion dollars as an average person--- you think man you should be able to fix everything with 1.2 billion," said Melinda McGrath, MDOT Executive Director.

But that's just a baseline operating cost. It doesn't include money to rehab the crumbling bridges in the state, for example.

"We have all these deficient bridges, almost 4,000 when you look at the state and the local, that need some additional dollars to maintain and repair those bridges," noted Senator Willie Simmons, Senate Transportation Chairman. "What I'm afraid of is if we don't do something, it's going to become a public safety issue."

The ideas about how to generate those dollars are more controversial and part of why the special session was forced in the first place. But word around the Capitol is that common ground may be found by next January.

"Those conversations are racheting up," noted House Transportation Chairman Charles Busby. "I think they're getting some movement. Everyday somebody gets a little more lean towards helping us out."

House transportation chairman Charles Busby sayid his statewide tour with MDOT last year is part of why the House is pushing for more.

Funding streams like an increased gas tax discussions have been non-starters in the past. But the chairman are hoping to see movement next session.

"Until the citizens get involved and start telling us they want us to do that, I think it's going to be very difficult and challenging for us to get something passed," said Simmons.

"I have ran across very few people in the entire state who are really into pay a little bit more on the gas tax, if you will tax, as long as they can be assured that that money is going to be officially spent on the roads and bridges," added Busby.

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