Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Gephyrophobia translates into fear of bridges, and it's perfectly rational for Mississippians around the state to be suffering from that phobia following the closure of more than 100 "dangerous" bridges. What's even scarier is the fact that the risky conditions drivers face on dilapidated bridges and roads is not news to Mississippi lawmakers. They know, and they do little to nothing about it.
This legislative session marks the third year in a row that the Legislature has ignored the Mississippi Economic Council's calls to fund repairs to roads and bridges. The only reason questionable bridges and roads are closed now is because the Federal Highways Administration gave Gov. Phil Bryant an ultimatum: close dangerous roads and bridges, or potentially lose federal funds. And despite protestations to the contrary, Mississippi's Republican leaders have long craved juicy pork out of Washington. So, bridges closed. The state's residents can just find another way to get there.
Since the Legislature and its leaders couldn't figure out how to deal with this crisis during the session, we may have to pay them more to try again. House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, is trying to pull together a last-minute proposal that would shift around taxes in no net-result increase, but it is unclear if Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves would even get behind Gunn's plan as a fiscal conservative.
If they could agree, Gov. Bryant could call a special session to vote and repair roads and bridges if it passed. But until then, folks better start mapping out alternate routes around the state.
Not to mention, Democrats in the House and the Senate seem to not be particularly fond of Gunn's plan, either.
This is yet another example of closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out—that is if you can make it back to the farm without a bridge collapsing on your way. The safety of simply traveling our roadways should not be lumped into partisan games, with blame lobbed back and forth across the aisle. The safety of roads and bridges affects legislators and voters alike—as a collapsing bridge cares not whether you wear a suit to the State Capitol a couple months out of the year or if you're a mom in a small town trying to make it to your kid's soccer practice. Fix them, leaders. Mississippians' safety trumps your precious tax cuts.