MDOT funding still undecided; Wilson cites disagreements
FUNDING FOR THE Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has yet to be decided.
During this year’s legislative session, legislators in the House and Senate could not agree on how to fund MDOT for the next fiscal year, or how much to give the state’s road department.
“Your end product is that we zeroed MDOT out,” said District 73 Rep. Cory Wilson. “There’s no funding for roads and bridges. We did not pass a budget for MDOT this year, and that’s why we’re going back into special session on June 5.”
Wilson said the reason nothing was passed was because the House and Senate could not agree on how to direct more funding to roads and bridges, although they agreed more funding was needed.
“The House, from our point of view, passed several bills this year that would have at least started to increase funding for roads and bridges.”
One such bill was one that would have dedicated $50 million to bridge repairs. The first version of this bill, according to Wilson, was House Bill 480, which is the internet sales tax bill.
“It would have dedicated that money, which currently goes into the general fund, to roads and bridges.”
Fifty percent of the funds would have gone to county and city roads.
“Here’s the thing about the internet use tax: it’s been on the books for about eight years… Everybody is required to declare all out-of-state purchases where you don’t pay the tax, and pay the tax on it.”
House Bill 480 would have improved the collection of those taxes.
“So, Amazon and other retailers would collect it and pay it…”
Although the bill died during the legislative session, Wilson said Amazon agreed to collect the tax for the state voluntarily.
If internet taxes were collected from all online retailers through a bill, the state could collect anywhere between $150 million to $200 million every year specifically for roads and bridges.
The state currently collects $15 million to $30 million each year from internet sales tax. The collected funds go directly into the state’s general fund.
“We went back and forth trying to reach a decision with the Senate on all this,” said Wilson. “We couldn’t, so stay tuned. Roads and bridges are very important. They’re really important in a place like Madison and Madison County because we have high growth. We have to do something about roads.”
Wilson also said legislators wanted to require MDOT to find $50 million in savings before they received more funding.
“In other words, we were going to require MDOT to find deficiencies and save money, which they need to do, before they got any additional money. We’ve got to drive efficiency… So, to be determined. We’ll keep working on it.”