Coast’s wind pool excess could be solution to MDOT funding issue, lawmaker says

Published 8:21 am Friday, April 28, 2017

Legislators will meet back in Jackson June 5 for a special session to hash out budgets for the Attorney General’s office and the Mississippi Department of Transportation and one Brookhaven lawmaker hopes to add one more thing to the discussion.

Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, said Gov. Phil Bryant will call the session and right now, senators and representatives are in the dark about what else may come up besides MDOT’s and the AG’s budgets. “We left without doing either one of those budgets,” she said.

Finding money to fund road and bridge maintenance and improvements is paramount, she said.

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Currie said she’s been meeting with the transportation committee since the session ended and they’ve come up with a list of 10 ideas for finding the additional funding needed for MDOT.

None of the ideas will require new taxes, she said, which means an additional gas tax is off the table.

One of the ideas, she said, is to use the wind pool insurance fund that was created for the Coast. It requires $100 million to be in the account, but there’s $250 million in it. Currie said the extra $150 million could go to MDOT.

“We’re hoping the speaker (of the House) and the lieutenant governor are talking, because if not, we won’t have any money for roads and bridges,” she said. “My hope is that we put our $20 million into roads and bridges that we do every year. Lincoln County depends on that money every year to fix roads and bridges. The least I want is what we usually get.”

Currie is also hoping to “Christmas-tree” a bill that would permit Brookhaven County Club to receive a resort status allowing it to serve liquor. Bryant vetoed the bill April 18.

Currie authored House Bill 144 and was disappointed that Bryant didn’t sign it into law. She said he told her that his veto wasn’t against her bill, but against some of the additions to it.

Currie said once a bill goes to Ways and Means, other legislators can attach items to it — a method nicknamed “Christmas-treeing” because odds and ends are added to the main bill.

Bryant did not like certain items that had been Christmas-treed to the original bill, and wanted to avoid approval of everything that had been attached, said Currie. The only way to do that was to veto the bill as he had received it.

“It was something that had nothing to do with resort status in communities,” she said. “They wanted to close the tax commission office in Senatobia and move it to Hernando. They added that to it in conference.”

Now Currie is trying to find a way to add the resort status language to another bill the governor can sign during special session. The challenge is finding something to attach it to.

“If I can figure out a way to stick it in there, I’m going to try,” she said.

If she doesn’t succeed, she said the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen can approve the resort status. “If I can’t get this squeezed into a bill, hopefully they’ll do it for them,” she said.

Becky Currie