After the Joint Legislative Budget Committee met on Friday, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves stepped aside to meet with the press and answer a few questions about the conservative budget revisions that were adopted by the group.
During the Lt. Gov.’s comments Speaker of the House Philip Gunn joined the group, and questions surrounding the fate of the Bridge Act, SB 3046, began. When asked how he felt about the state of the Bridge Act, the Lt. Gov. said:
“We have had a lot of very positive discussion over the last week and a half. There are some points on which we continue to disagree so I think we are at a point in which, baring a major breakthrough, we will see what happens. We have till tomorrow at 8:00,” said Lt. Gov. Reeves.
When asked the same question the Speaker he said:
“I just could not get comfortable with aspects of their plan, primarily the match. My team does not believe that it results in any real money getting to the cities, the counties and the state. The match issue was a big deal for us,” said Speaker Gunn.
He said the bill proposed a dollar for dollar match for anything over and above what a town is already spending. He said most small towns are operating on a small budget and already doing all they can to put dollars to infrastructure needs. He said most small towns like that have no means of generating any real new money.
He used the example of Flora who are putting between $25,000 and $50,000 to fixing roads and bridges. With that amount, they’re probably only able fill in some pot holes.
“It costs, I would venture to say, the same amount to pave a mile of road in Flora Mississippi as it does in Jackson. The road builders don’t give you a break on the costs just because you’re a town of 15,000,” said Speaker Gunn.
The Speaker said requiring a town to match dollars that way, then there are only two real ways to get that money: raise taxes, or they will have to take it from the budget. He reiterated that that will not result in any real dollars.
He said what the House did with HB 722, the Use Tax bill, that was killed earlier in the Session, actually created new dollars and was a better way to manage the money.
“We would rather have no bill, than pass an inadequate bill or bad bill,” said Speaker Gunn.
There is still one bill, HB 354, alive that would put aside 2 percent of estimated general fund revenue. The Speaker and Lt. Gov. saw potential for that money to be used on transportation programs.