Supervisors want to use some of the state’s BP funds to fix roads

Published 7:19 am Sunday, December 25, 2016

Everyone agrees something needs to be done about the roads of Lincoln County.

Those who oversee those roads in particular want to see some progress made, but improvements take money and that’s where the problem lies. They say they don’t have enough.

Roads were a big topic of conversation at the Lincoln County Board of Supervisor’s final meeting of the year last week.

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Board President Bobby Watts, representing District 2, and District 3 Supervisor Nolan Williamson, District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown and District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey all agree that landowners are tired of bearing the brunt of taxes for fixing roads and bridges.

Even District 1 Supervisor Jerry Wilson, who was absent from the meeting, has voiced his concerns in the past.

At the meeting, supervisors heard what might be considered good news from their representatives in Jackson.

District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, and District 39 Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, addressed infrastructure concerns. The need to fix the roads and bridges are crucial, they said.

However, finding the funds to do so has been the issue.

“Medicaid costs continue to increase exponentially. More funding is needed for education. And many of our agencies and state workers need additional funding or pay raises. Making our dollars stretch is certainly a challenge,” Doty told The Daily Leader after the meeting.

Money could also be put towards infrastructure with an approval of a gas tax, but the likelihood of that is slim to none, both women said.

“The state is already down $40 million in oil and gas resulting from lower oil prices and decreased oil production for the state,” Doty said. 

“Many of my constituents work in the oil industry and have lost jobs or saw decreases in pay,” she said.

This leads to reduced spending and thus reduced sales tax collections for the state. Increases in online purchasing where sales tax is not charged is also contributing to the decrease in sales tax collections the senator said.

With the new session starting Jan. 3, the infrastructure concerns will definitely be a part of the agenda. There’s also $700 million coming from BP, which brings hope for some of it to be distributed into the state general fund, Currie said.

Of the 122 members of the House of Representatives, 100 of them are pushing for a good percentage of the money to be added that way despite the request by House members on the Gulf Coast to keep it there.

“A lot of money needs to go back to the general fund to be distributed to [all] the counties,” Currie said.

Currie, Doty, and District 53 Rep. Vince Magnold, R-Brookhaven, plan to push for legislation in the upcoming session that is beneficial for Lincoln County.

The final decisions determining how much funding will be directed to county infrastructure and more will not come until the end of the 90-day session, Doty and Currie said.

Without a solid chance of a gas tax being approved, the legislators said they a looking into other funds such as the local system road fund, which is a fund set specifically for the county, to bring as much funding to infrastructure as possible.

Doty is hopeful that president-elect Donald Trump will follow through on his promise to push for better infrastructure throughout the nation’s cities and counties.

“A federal infrastructure bill would certainly benefit Mississippi and would perhaps free up some state funds for smaller, local projects,” Doty said.