JACKSON, Miss. — A bill that passed the Mississippi House on Tuesday would allow the state to issue $300 million in bonds to pay for highways, bridges and other transportation projects around the state.
Before passing the bill 90-30, the House voted to add several road-widening projects to the original list, but members added no bond money to pay for the extra work.
That led one lawmaker to say his colleagues weren’t being serious about a potentially life-or-death matter.
“I watched this bill get shredded here today,” Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, scolded his colleagues.
Rep. Willie Bailey, D-Greenville, responded from the front row: “I wasn’t playing.”
Bailey and Rep. John Hines, also a Greenville Democrat, were among the lawmakers who persuaded their colleagues to add a project to the bill — a proposal to make U.S. 61 a four-lane highway on a section where it has only two lanes now, from Leland south to Vicksburg.
Bailey said “it’s insanity” that his part of the state remains mired in poverty, partly because companies have trouble getting big trucks to take goods in and out of some places.
“The Delta is a part of Mississippi, too,” Bailey said.
At times Tuesday, the debate sounded more like a church service than a public-policy discussion. Calls of “All right,” and “Amen,” could be heard on parts of the House floor as some lawmakers proposed adding projects.
Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, pleaded for a widening of Mississippi Highway 7 in the northern end of the state.
“If you’re going to do for one, do for us all,” Reynolds said before his proposal was approved.
The state issues bonds to provide long-term financing for expensive projects. The House has passed transportation bond bills in each of the past two years, but those have died in the Senate. House Transportation Committee Chairman Warner McBride, D-Courtland, said he hopes the Senate will pass a bill this year.
Before unfunded projects were added, the House bill had $42 million for a highway near the still-unopened Toyota plant in Blue Springs, $80 million for other highway projects, and $178 million for bridges.
The bill was held for the possibility of more House debate before it moves to the Senate.
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow The Trucker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/truckertalk.