February 8, 2018 10:46:32 AM
JACKSON -- Cities would receive a slightly larger share of Mississippi sales tax collections under a plan that lawmakers are debating.
Senators voted 42-9 Wednesday to pass Senate Bill 2455. It would require cities to spend the extra money on infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and water and sewer lines. The bill goes to the House for more work.
"I think we'll be putting a few more people to work. We'll be creating a few more jobs in each and every one of our cities," said Republican Sen. David Parker of Olive Branch, the bill's main author.
The money would go to municipal governments only if Mississippi sales tax collections increase at least 1 percent a year. When fully in place, the plan would divide an extra $40 million a year among cities.
Opponents said that is not enough money to make a big difference in the expensive problems with crumbling roads and broken water lines.
"Can we please just dispense with the fantasy that this Legislature is doing something for infrastructure?" said Democratic Sen. David Blount of Jackson.
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement that sending money to cities is part of a larger plan to deal with infrastructure in the state.
"Maintaining infrastructure is a core function of government, and proper upkeep of roads, bridges and water and sewer systems requires continued investment," Reeves said.
Reeves and other Senate leaders have not proposed a long-term plan this year to put more money into state highways and bridges, though the state chamber of commerce, the Mississippi Economic Council, has said for years that improving infrastructure is one of the top needs for development. This is the third year of legislators' four-year term.
"It is the single greatest failure of this term of the Legislature that we were not able to come together in a bipartisan way and deal with our infrastructure problems ... We all know it's a state crisis," Blount said.
House leaders are proposing a plan that would reduce income taxes in exchange for higher fuel taxes to raise money for roads and bridges. House Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Busby, a Pascagoula Republican, said last week that the plan could phase out the state's 4 percent income tax bracket, which applies to yearly incomes between $5,001 and $10,000. In exchange, Busby said lawmakers would impose an additional 12-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and 15-cent tax on diesel, phasing it in over four years as the income tax is phased out.
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