House members are slated to consider a controversial Senate bill put forth by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves which would consolidate power and authority over transportation funds under the governor's control, rather than a three-person Mississippi Department of Transportation Commission.
What's controversial about Senate Bill 3046 is that it calls for more than $1 billion in infrastructure spending over five years by diverting funds from the state's rainy day or reserve fund.
Overall, the bill includes $150 million in earmarked bonds, $125 million diverted from MDOT, more than $600 million diverted from the general fund, and a new privilege tax on hybrid and electric vehicles, vehicles which are designed to conserve energy and cut down on emissions.
The governor, be it current Governor Phil Bryant or possibly Reeves if he runs to succeed Bryant, would have sole authority over the $1 billion, effectively replacing the oversight of the three-person elected commission and replacing it with the governor's wishes.
State Rep. Jeff Hale, R-Nesbit, said he and other House members will consider the bill carefully but Hale said he personally likes the idea that control over transportation funds would be consolidated under the governor.
"There's been a lot of talk about this and I think by Wednesday we'll have a bigger grip on this when it comes over," Hale said Monday. "I think the best thing that could happen is that it (oversight) of transportation funds would be pulled out from under that (Commission) and put under the governor's control. "He (governor) is the CEO of who we work for," added Hale. "All of the department heads should be under the control of the governor. We all have a boss and ours is the governor."
Hale said Tuesday is the deadline for House appropriation bills and lawmakers are preoccupied with making sure bills are out by the deadline.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.