MDOT offers preparation tips during peak hurricane season

99 views – WXXV Staff – 2022-08-11 17:53:14

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JACKSON, MISS. — August marks the start of peak Atlantic , and is offering a few tips to help residents, businesses and community organizations prepare before a storm threatens the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“We’ve had a fairly quiet hurricane season so far, but we can’t let our guard down, especially as peak season is now upon us,” said Commissioner Tom King, Southern Transportation District. “We urge each individual in South Mississippi to prepare now. MDOT offers very helpful free resources to help you make your…

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MDOT urges coastal residents to plan for hurricanes

156 views – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-30 16:38:32

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HATTIESBURG, MISS. –  is officially underway and the () is urging residents to prepare now.

“After a quiet June, the tropics are starting to heat up as we move into July,” said Commissioner Tom King, Southern Transportation District. “You can count on a tropical storm or hurricane entering the Gulf over the coming months. By taking…

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Caldwell postpones $100M emergency funds


Caldwell holds up $100M emergency road, bridge money for cities and counties

Northern District Transportation Commissioner John Caldwell postponed the disbursement of $100 million to cities and counties for emergency road and bridge needs Tuesday saying he wanted more details on how the funds were being divvied.

Caldwell said he had told staff he wanted data on how the projects were selected before on them. Because he said he did not have that information, he voted against approving the list of projects Tuesday at the monthly Transportation Commission meeting.

The other two commissioners – Tom King of the Southern District and Willie Simmons of the Central District – voted to approve the funds, but the law creating the Emergency Road and Bridge Fund in a 2018 special session mandated a unanimous vote of the commission to spend the money.

“We will get it worked out,” Caldwell said after the meeting. “I asked them (staff members) not to put it on the agenda if they did not have the data. I did not think they were.”

The Legislature appropriated $100 million for the fund during the 2022 session. The commission was voting Tuesday in an attempt to disburse the funds before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

“We told them in April not to put this out at the last minute,” Caldwell said. He said the hoped to have the list of projects finalized by early June so that it could presented to the Mississippi Municipal League and the Supervisors Association during their annual conferences and then the commission could vote on it at the Tuesday meeting.

The Legislature created the Emergency Road and Bridge Fund in a 2018 special session focused on fixing the state’s crumbling infrastructure, and helping local governments that were facing widespread emergency bridge closures because of disrepair.

In earlier rounds of funding for the program, was able to use some of the money — about a third — on state projects. But in this year’s session the Legislature, flush with money, provided more direct funds to MDOT and decreed that the entire $100 million it allocated to the emergency fund go only to county and city projects.

The Emergency Road and Bridge Fund has an advisory board, but the three-member elected state Transportation Commission must officially – and unanimously – sign off on projects. MDOT staff vets and analyzes the projects and makes efforts to spread them evenly through the three state transportation districts.

White said the plan initially was to use an existing list of approved city and county projects, but that because of inflation and other issues, the advisory council and MDOT staff decided to reopen the application process for the $100 million.

“The law (providing $100 million) was passed in April, and we opened the applications in mid-April to May for locals to apply,” White said. “… In keeping with what we’ve done since 2018, we used computer data analytics, had staff manually go through each application, and also followed the legislative intent that we have equity in projects across the state.”

White said the vetting took some time, and the recommended list was presented to the advisory council a little over a week ago. The council approved the list, White said, then it was provided to the Transportation Commission a week ago.

White said he intends to present the list again for ratification at the commission’s next meeting on July 12, and hopes that Caldwell will have had enough time to review it and the panel will vote unanimously. But under the law, White said, the money sits in limbo until the commission unanimously approves projects.

White said counties and cities presented more than $700 million worth of projects for the $100 million available. He said there were 378 applications, including 297 from counties and 81 from cities or towns. Of those, he said, 54 county projects and seven city or town projects were chosen to present to the commission for the $100 million.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

MDOT highway projects under way in South Mississippi

158 views – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-21 08:44:48

Southern Transportation Commissioner Tom King announced updates to several projects in .

“Summer is peak construction season at MDOT, and we’re proud to see the progress being made on Mississippi’s highways,” said King. “We are always striving to improve our state’s transportation network by enhancing its safety for our citizens. These projects all represent significant steps in that…

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CTA Unveils the First Public Transit Battery Electric Bus in Mississippi


by Coast Transit Authority, Our Mississippi Home

The time has arrived for the unveiling of Mississippi’s First Battery Electric Bus (BEB) for public transit. This event will be held on Earth Day, Friday, April 22, at 10:00 a.m. at the Transit Center. Speakers will include Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes; Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich; Public Service Commissioner Dane Maxwell; Director of Intermodal Planning Charles Carr;…

This article first appeared on Our Mississippi Home.

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MDOT, Governor Reeves remind the public “Work zones are a sign to slow down”

74 views – WXXV Staff – 2022-04-11 18:58:09

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JACKSON, MISS.— The () and Governor Tate Reeves are joining forces this week to remind the public that “Work zones are a sign to slow down,”  the theme for 2022’s National Work Zone Awareness Week, scheduled for April 11-15.

To call attention to the life-and- issues facing workers and the public in work zones, Gov. Tate Reeves has proclaimed April 11-15 as “Work…

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City of Pascagoula seeks state funds for marina

105 views – Jack Hammett – 2022-03-02 17:40:59

The City of wants to secure funding for a marina on Lowry Island as builds a new access road from .

Last night, the Pascagoula City Council voted unanimously to submit an application to the Department of Environmental Quality for $9 million in Restore Act Funds.

The proposal puts a public marina right near River Park as the city is one of the few on the Coast without a public boat access made for…

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The Mississippi Republican income tax bet


The Mississippi Republican income tax bet

Note: This analysis first published in Mississippi Today’s weekly legislative newsletter. Subscribe to our free newsletter for exclusive early access to weekly analyses.

Mississippi faces a critical teacher shortage due in part to lawmakers paying them less than any other state. Meanwhile, many of the teachers we do have don’t have the classroom resources — and sometimes even actual classrooms — they need to adequately teach their students.

Agencies that provide critical government services are hemorrhaging staff because state employee salaries have been so low for so long that staffers are entering the more lucrative private sector.

Businesses across the state struggle to attract and retain workers because the prospective workers often lack the specific education or skills necessary to do those jobs effectively.

Aging roads, closed bridges and broken water systems are disrupting the everyday lives of so many Mississippians. and ambulance services are reporting staff shortages that could jeopardize the ability to provide timely emergency attention. Hospital leaders are begging lawmakers to help keep them afloat as they continue struggling to weather the pandemic.

Mississippi’s house is not in order. Mississippians across the state are struggling. They’ve been struggling. But these realities appear to have escaped Republican leaders inside the Capitol.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn is exerting every ounce of political capital he has to eliminate the Mississippi personal income tax, which accounts for about one-third of the state’s general fund revenue to fund basic government services like the ones listed above. In response, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann offered a shallower income tax cut, but one that many believe also threatens the state’s ability to fund basic public services.

“We have done everything,” Gunn said recently. “We have funded all of the government. We have excess money. Let’s give it back.”

READ MORE: Inside the income tax cut battle between House and Senate leaders

Mississippi currently has more money than it ever has. Revenue is currently soaring, thanks in large part to federal stimulus dollars that have poured into the state — both to individuals and to the state government. Many are calling this moment a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address some systemic problems the state has long faced. Others are just calling it once in a lifetime.

Republican leaders aren’t walking onto the floor of the Beau Rivage, but they sure look poised to place the biggest bet of their lives. To sell their income tax cut proposals, they’re pointing to projections that are based solely on the best guesses of economists. Keep in mind, these projections are often very wrong because they are guesses. (This current fiscal year, revenue collections will likely be about $1 billion off last year’s “best guess.”)

The bet Republicans are making, in essence, is that Mississippians will spend the income tax money they’re “saving” them in other ways, and that other tax collections will rise. No state has ever fully phased out a personal income tax, so there’s true way to know if this bet will pay off.

If they’re right, the will continue to be funded. If they’re wrong, government budgets will have to be slashed to balance the state budget and Mississippians will miss out on even more basic government services that they’re already not getting enough of.

The prevailing question that everyone is asking as they watch how legislative leaders navigate the next few weeks: Can Mississippi really afford this tax cut?

Ask teachers, who have long been underappreciated and underpaid by lawmakers. Gunn and Hosemann are pushing their own versions of a pretty substantial pay raise for teachers that will cost the state about $200 million more per year. Education groups aren’t so sure the pay raises — not withstanding basic public education services — will be funded in perpetuity if this tax cut bet doesn’t pay off.

“If Mississippi has plenty of money, the Legislature has no excuse for not fully funding and bringing teacher pay to the Southeastern average — before giving away any state funds,” wrote Nancy Loome of public education advocacy group The Parents’ Campaign. “If Mississippi does not have sufficient state funds to properly provide for our children and teachers, we certainly can’t afford a tax cut.”

Ask retirees, a majority of whom don’t currently pay income tax, what they think about having to pay a higher sales tax on many of the things they spend their money on. Ask advocates for lower-income Mississippians, who could likely pay more in taxes if the Gunn plan is adopted.

“The (tax cut proposal) is like putting lipstick on a pig. No matter how you dress it up or down, eliminating the income tax is bad for Mississippi, especially the state’s working families, communities of color, and retirees,” advocacy group One Voice wrote in January. “The state’s surplus is not enough to support much-needed investments in the public services that Mississippians want, like quality schools, affordable healthcare, solid infrastructure, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing nor is it enough to support yet another tax cut that largely benefits the state’s wealthiest.”

Ask the leaders of Mississippi’s largest businesses, who continue to publicly maintain that cutting the income tax will not help them attract and retain a better workforce.

“The Mississippi tax environment was not high profile nor even discussed significantly as a priority,” said a report released by the Mississippi Economic Council last week. To compile that report, MEC held 51 town-hall style forums with business and community leaders across the state and from numerous sectors from July through September of 2021. The income tax issue didn’t even come up at any meeting until the end of August.

“There was the thought (eliminating the income tax) could drive other costs up and it could hurt the state budget and households,” the business council’s report said.

The Tax Foundation, a conservative think-tank, said that Mississippians paid $614 per capita for income taxes in 2020. That’s a nice chunk of change that no one would turn down. But considering so many government services aren’t already provided, what would that extra spending money really look like for Mississippians? Is it real relief?

For teachers, it could be some extra money to buy their students classroom supplies and teaching resources that aren’t covered by the state. For drivers, it could be a new set of tires that need replacing because the roads are in such bad shape. It could provide some relief for Mississippians who pay higher water bills as systems continue requiring costly repairs, or higher medical bills because understaffed hospitals will have to drive up costs.

For Mississippians looking for better jobs, it could be tuition money for the skills training that they can’t currently get in their county, or gas money to drive long distances to places where the jobs actually exist.

The income tax money that taxpayers would be “saved” would, in many cases, have to be spent plugging holes that lawmakers have left themselves — Mississippians forced to spend money they wouldn’t otherwise have to because lawmakers didn’t do their jobs well in the first place.

While Republican leaders continue to use best guesses to allay all these concerns, Mississippians may soon be forced to watch their big bet play out over the course of the next few years. And the stakes sure will be high.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

reports of flurries in Hinds, Rankin counties

137 views – Mississippi Clarion Ledger – 2022-02-04 11:47:28

Light snow flurries have been reported in Hinds and Rankin counties Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Jackson. 

“With the cold air and low-hanging clouds that will clear out by the afternoon,” said Meteorologist Janae Elkins. 

Reports of flurries also came from further north in Oktibbeha and Winston Counties, she said.

Radar data from NWS Jackson on Friday morning…

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Safety rules for winter road emergencies

308 views – WXXV Staff – 2022-01-20 15:16:48

is busy prepping for the winter weather advisory.

’s Castleberry tells 25 that crews are out today salting area bridges to help alleviate the ice threat. They’ll continue to monitor the situation through the night.

He reminds drivers that bridges will be the first to ice over as temperatures drop.

Working alongside MDOT to ensure road safety, MHP Troop K will be…

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