Bill passes with more than $72M in cash for capital projects

JACKSON — Mississippi would spend $72.6 million in cash on various capital projects under a bill approved Friday by the state House.

The move appears to concede to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ wish that Mississippi begin paying for some needs out of its ongoing budget instead of borrowing through bonds.

“Lt. Gov. Reeves is encouraged by the House agreeing with the Senate’s position that many of the expenses that have been bonded in the past should be paid for out of the annual appropriation,” said Laura Hipp, spokeswoman for the Republican lieutenant governor.

Reeves’ desire to cut borrowing was the major factor in the failure of the House and Senate to agree on a bond bill in 2012. That failure meant no cash to help politically sensitive constituencies, including county governments and volunteer fire departments. It also contributed to the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University imposing additional fees on their students starting this fall to pay for building construction and renovation.

From 1996 to 2011, lawmakers authorized some borrowing every year. The average amount authorized was $345 million, ranging from a low of $28 million in 2008 to a high of $857 million in 2010.

Last year, Reeves wanted to borrow $73 million and pay $50 million for various projects. House members wanted to borrow substantially more.

House Bill 22, which passed the House 118-0 Friday, would begin spending the money upon final legislative passage and running through the end of the 2014 budget year. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, told House members he still contemplated passing a bond bill.

Friday’s bill includes:

— $20 million for county bridge replacement.

— $11 million to replace roofs at universities.

— $1 million to waterproof Jackson State University’s administration tower.

— $5 million to replace roofs at community colleges.

— $4 million to replace roofs at the Department of Mental Health

— $5 million to replace roofs on other state buildings.

— $3 million for grants for rural fire trucks.

The bill includes $22 million to pay vendors who are creating MAGIC, a new accounting software program for state government. Frierson said that much of the massive project, which has been ongoing since 2010, is due at the end of February.

The measure also contains $1.6 million for the proposed Grammy music museum in Cleveland. Bryant recently delivered a $1 million check to the museum, but only after blocking $3 million that Frierson and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, tried to steer to the museum last summer.

 

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