The conclusion of the 2018 legislative session does not mean efforts to find consensus on a plan to spend more money on transportation have ended for the year, multiple officials have said.
And if those efforts are productive, Gov. Phil Bryant could call a special session of the Legislature to adopt them.
“Gov. Bryant is working with House and Senate leadership to find common solutions for infrastructure. That includes consideration of a special session,” Clay Chandler, a spokesman for the governor, said Monday via an emailed response.
“I wish if there is a special session we could come up with a comprehensive plan and not just a Band-Aid,” said Rep. Jody Steverson, R-Ripley, who said the talk has been persistent that legislators will be called back in special session.
That talk has included combining a special seassion on transportation with one on how to disburse the funds from the settlement the state will receive for damages from the 2010 BP explosion in the Gulf of Mexico resulting in a massive oil spill. The state has about $100 million in a BP fund and is slated to receive $750 million over 17 years years. The Legislature cannot agree on how those funds should be spent. At least some members of the House believe the funds should be earmarked for transportation.
“I think we had some good discussions” about the BP funds, House Speaker Philip Gunn said on the day the session ended. “We are going to continue that discussion.” Gunn said if those discussions lead to an agreement, “the governor could quickly call a special session.”
In 2017, the House killed the budget bill for the Department of Transportation in an effort to force the Senate to consider some of its proposals to spend more money on transportation. That effort was not successful. The Legislature convened to approve the budget for the Department of Transportation, but never seriously considered any proposals to enhance spending.
“I am committed to working to accomplish the goal of spending more money on a core function of government, roads and bridges, water and sewer,” he said at the end of the 2018 regular session.
The Legislature has been grappling for years with how to generate more money for transportation. Studies have indicated that an additional $400 million per year is needed to deal with a deteriorating system of infrastructure on both the state and local level.
The Legislature has not been willing to raise taxes to solve the issue.
— Bobby Harrison / Daily Journal
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