BRIDGE Act is costly, but the needs exist

Published 9:20 pm Monday, February 19, 2018

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Monday a $1 billion plan to repair roads and bridges in Mississippi without raising taxes.

But that money will have to come from somewhere. Some of it will come from MDOT’s budget, which will likely require some cuts at the agency. Some will come from auto tag fees. Some will come from unused funds from the municipal sales tax diversion infrastructure fund. Some will come from taxes on electric and hybrid vehicles. Some of it (about $150 million) will be borrowed.

The plan’s dollar figure is based on spending over the next five years, and it’s a serious investment into what has long been a problem. The state’s infrastructure is failing. Just take a ride down a street or highway, or try to cross some bridges in Lincoln County, and you’ll see the problem up close. Borrowing some of the funds necessary to upgrade infrastructure around the state was inevitable. Republicans had made it clear a tax increase of any kind was off the table.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Legislators have struggled in the past to find a way to fund infrastructure adequately, but the plan announced Monday had support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. It still has to make it out of the Senate and the House before it becomes reality.

Part of the $1 billion in funding will go to economically distressed areas such as the Delta “to spur economic growth.”

“We recognize the needs in Mississippi go beyond roads and bridges,” Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, said. “The BRIDGE Act will help our cities and our rural areas fix their critical needs whether that means reopening a closed bridge or repairing broken water and sewer lines. This is a positive plan that doesn’t ignore the needs of our rural areas, like the Mississippi Delta.”

Cleveland’s home county of Bolivar, and other rural counties, will split nearly $10 million in funding.

The plan includes funding for the local system bridge program, railroad improvements, repairing water and sewer systems, and dam maintenance. According to a press release from Reeves’ office, $240 million will be used for immediate needs such as the bridge program for counties.

An investment like this is needed. It won’t be cheap, but it’s necessary for Mississippi to be successful.