Most Mississippi counties consistent in percentage of spending on public works
Counties with bridges closed by Gov. Phil Bryant's executive order are spending 33 percent of their budgets, on average, on public works, according to analysis of data of county audits from 2014 to 2016 from the Mississippi state Auditor's website.
That's on par with some of the state's wealthier and more populous counties, which spend an average of 28 percent of their budgets on public works.
The counties included in the governor's executive order issued last week that closed 106 bridges include: Amite, Carroll, Clarke, Greene, Hinds, Humphreys, Itawamba, Jasper, Jones, Lauderdale, Leake, Lincoln, Newton, Pike, Smith and Wayne.
Amite County spent the biggest percentage of its budget, 48.7 percent, on public works projects in 2015 and has 15 bridges listed for closure in the order. The Office of State Aid Road Construction lists 27 out of the county's 173 bridges as closed.
Hinds County spent only 5.3 percent ($6 million) of its 2018 budget — which totals $113 million — on public works projects. Jasper County spent more on public works projects — $7.92 million — than Hinds County despite having a population of only 16,500. Hinds has a population of more than 248,000.
Hinds County has 23 closed bridges on the list out of 401 total, with 31 closed as listed on OSARC website. Jasper has only eight bridges on the list.
With bigger tax bases, the more populous counties without any bridges on the closing list spend a smaller percentage of their budgets on public works. At the top, DeSoto County spends $43 million or 38 percent of its most recent budget on public works projects. In 2015, Harrison County spent the least out of the populous counties by percentage, only 19 percent or about $21 million, on public works projects.
The governor has discussed calling a special session this summer to address infrastructure funding if the House and Senate leadership can come to a deal on a plan. Bryant already signed a bond bill into law last week that would authorize $50 million to help repair and replace substandard bridges.
House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) has offered a $275 million plan that will include sending some use tax revenues to cities and counties for infrastructure and eliminating the 4 percent income tax bracket and replacing it with a gasoline tax increase. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said he's opposed to any gasoline tax increase.