Mississippi House leaders unveil new transportation proposal

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi House leaders are proposing a new plan that could put hundreds of millions more dollars into highways and bridges.

This comes as Gov. Phil Bryant has ordered more than 100 locally maintained bridges to be closed because federal officials say they are in dangerous condition.

Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said Thursday that one part of the plan is a tax swap.

Over four years, the 4 percent income tax bracket would be phased out and a gasoline tax increase would be phased in. He says that would take about as much money out of the state budget as it would put in, but would direct more cash to infrastructure.

Bryant could call legislators into special session at some point to consider long-term plan to pay for transportation.

State Rep. David Baria and Sen. Derrick T. Simmons, chairs of the legislative Democratic caucuses in the Mississippi House and Senate, respectively, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they have long advocated for a sustainable funding mechanism for Mississippi’s roads and bridges.

In a letter, the Democrats blamed "multi-million dollar out-of-state corporate tax cuts" for the state not having enough money available to make roads and bridges safe. The caucus representatives said tax cuts should be postponed immediately.

In addition, Democrats say they recommend other funding sources be seriously considered, such as a lottery.