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Rep. Becky Currie says $108M bill for roads, bridges ‘the biggest move we have made’

State representatives Thursday approved House Bill 722 — a bi-partisan measure aimed at restoring the state’s aging infrastructure.

“We have been working hard to come up with a way to fund local roads and bridges,” said Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, who represents Copiah, Lawrence and Lincoln counties. “This is the biggest move we have made.”

Democratic and Republican legislators joined forces, passing the measure unanimously. Lawmakers started this session Jan. 2.

In conjunction with Currie, Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, who represents Copiah, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence and Simpson counties, and Rep. Vince Mangold, R-Brookhaven, who represents Franklin, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Lincoln and Pike counties, were also in favor of the legislation.

HB 722 creates the potential for a new, annual stream of income designed to help cities and counties maintain roads and bridges. It would divert 35 percent of Mississippi’s use-tax collections to the yearly upkeep of infrastructure.

“None of the House members cared about giving the Department of Transportation a penny more,” Currie said. “Especially if doing so would mean having to raise the gas tax.”

The use-tax is gathered from sales tax collected on out-of-state purchases, including those made online. Roughly $310 million was amassed last year, and the new diversion would reroute 35 percent of that revenue toward state roadways.

“This is one of the best things we’ve done for local government,” Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said. “This increases the diversions back to cities and counties, which is something our mayors and supervisors have been requesting for years.”

The move is a redirection of existing dollars, and estimates suggest $108 million could be allocated to city and county roads and bridges statewide each year.

The diversion would be broken down as follows:

• 15 percent of all use-tax collections — approximately $46.5 million — would go to cities, dispersed in proportion with their current sales tax diversion.

• 15 percent of all use-tax collections — approximately $46.5 million — would go to counties, dispersed according to their current state aid road formula.

• Five percent of all use-tax collections — approximately $15.5 million — would fund an annual grant program administered through the Mississippi Development Authority, where cities and counties can request up to $1.5 million in additional funding per road and bridge project.

“This is a tax that is already being charged to online purchases,” Currie said. “So, that means we aren’t creating any new taxes. We’re diverting existing money back into cities and counties.”

The state Senate must sign off on HB 722 before it becomes a law.

“I hope the Senate will at least look at this bill,” Currie said.

Becky Currie