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Supervisors join statewide campaign for bridge funds Featured

At Monday's meeting of the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors, a resolution was passed requesting the state legislature to set aside a portion of any new revenue for the purpose of addressing failing infrastructure. "We are adopting this now because state legislature is currently discussing this issue. We would like them to consider the hardship we are facing and ask them to use the funds from new revenue sources to help with infrastructure," said Bolivar County Administrator Will Hooker. The Bolivar supervisors were not the only government body addressing the issue. County boards across the state received a resolution drawn up by the Mississippi Association of Supervisors for consideration and approval. "We put together a resolution based on recent activity in the Supreme Court regarding Wayfair versus North Dakota," said Steve Grey, director of Governmental Affairs for the Mississippi Association of Supervisors. “Prior to that ruling, there were companies that voluntarily remitted taxes from online interstate sales to states. Now states have the discretion to mandate those taxes be paid. That could be a new source of revenue for Mississippi.” Lawmakers in Jackson also recently passed legislation that allows visitors to casinos to legally bet on sporting events. Eight percent of those funds will go to the state and four percent will go to local municipalities. These funds could generate a large amount of money for the Mississippi general fund. As of presstime there was not a specific designation for the funds from the new gambling ruling. Grey and others would like to see at least part of the funds be put towards the improvement of roads and bridges statewide. "Our board has taken a stand and passed this resolution because we feel that this is an important issue not just for our county but for communities across the state," said Hooker. "We are bringing in new revenue and there is the possibility that we will be getting even more if legislation is passed on interstate Internet sales. We need to be proactive in petitioning the state government to use these funds to improve the quality of roads and bridges," Hooker continued. "We are the only state in the country that has declared a state of emergency with regards to infrastructure especially bridges. We currently have approximately 457 bridges in the state that are completely closed and about 1,748 bridges that have been posted for low weight vehicles," said Grey. He said closed bridges are dangerous and can cause delays to emergency vehicles and first responders. In addition with over 20 percent of the state’s 9,865 bridges being closed or posted low weight, there is the potential for serious economic complications. "This is a much bigger issue than delays in commuting," said Hooker. "We have people from all over the country and the world who visit the Delta. They need to be able to get around safely and efficiently. If we care about tourism, we must address this." The lack of funds to update bridges also creates problems for business owners and farmers who rely on trucks to get their products to market. "This is of special concern in the Delta. Harvest season is about to start and it will be harder to get crops out. Because of closed and low weight bridges, trucks will have to take longer routes and that will cost farmers more money," said Grey. "There is no way for counties to raise enough money on their own to address these issues. All they have at their disposal is an ad veloram tax (such as sales or property taxes). “There is no way for counties to raises taxes high enough to cover the work that needs to be done," he added. "Raising taxes to address these infrastructure issues is unfair to residents, especially in counties such as ours where many people are already facing financial hardship," said Hooker. "We need a long term funding solution for infrastructure and there was not one reached during this legislative session," said Grey. "That is why we asked all of the counties to reach out to their local representatives. We have heard from a number of places that have passed the resolution and that is encouraging."

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