Big gap exists in House and Senate bond bills

By Steve Wilson
February 27, 2019

A majority of members in the Mississippi House voted Tuesday to add more than $173 million in bond debt to the taxpayers’ credit card.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where a companion bond bill has already passed. The difference between the two amounts to a deep chasm.

Senate Bill 3065 only has $12 million total for projects. Four-year state universities would share $10 million, community colleges would share $1 million, and Huntington Ingalls would receive $1 million.

Legislators from both chambers will have to settle the differences between the two bills in conference later this session.

The House bill’s final amount could be higher, as state Rep. Jeff Smith (R-Columbus) said Tuesday that the bill would be the vehicle to help members out with their (funding) requests.

House Bill 1674 has more than $85 million in borrowing for projects for the state’s universities, including $13 million for renovating the Cook Library at the University of Southern Mississippi and $12 million for matching funds for an expansion for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

There is also $25 million for projects at the state’s community colleges.

There’s also $63 million spread over five years for restoration of historic buildings around the state. Some of these include:

  • $1.425 million to repair and restore the Columbus city hall
  • $500,000 for the building of a Natchez Trace visitor center in Kosciusko
  • $425,000 for rehabilitation of the L.Q.C. Lamar Home in Oxford
  • $250,000 for the Amory Regional Museum
  • $250,000 to renovate the Shubuta town hall
  • $250,000 to renovate the Wayne County courthouse
  • $250,000 for a welcome center in Okolona
  • $300,000 to restore the Winterville Indian Mounds
  • $100,000 for restoration work at a Confederate cemetery in Jefferson County

The House has already voted to pass a bill that would provide $45 million to Huntington Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula. They have also approved several other bonds for various entities totaling over $40 million.

According to the latest Financial State of the States report released in September by the non-partisan public policy group Truth in Accounting, the state owes more than $5.8 billion in bond debt alone.

The state will also borrow $300 million for infrastructure needs after the 2018 special session.

On Tuesday, the House also passed HB 822, which passed by a 92-15 margin. This bill would levy a $400 tax on any attorney licensed to practice in Mississippi who doesn’t have a practice or lives in the state.


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