Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will support a bond bill that addresses long-term capital needs, charter schools should be allowed to locate wherever parents want them, and the Mississippi Development Authority needs more legislative supervision over how it spends money out of its revolving loan fund.
Reeves touched on those topics and a few others Monday during the Stennis Capitol Press Corps luncheon in Jackson.
The Republican has taken criticism, including from some in his party, since the last legislation session ended without the passage of a bond bill, the first time that’s happened in as long as a lot of legislative veterans can remember.
The first-term lieutenant governor repeated Monday what he’s said for a couple months: He can get behind a bond package “reasonable and rational in size” that pays for long-term capital needs instead of things that should be funded through the normal appropriations process. He listed local system bridge programs, and repairs and HVAC systems for state buildings as things that have historically been bonded, and that are a big reason why the state pays $430 million annually in debt service.
“If it does not meet those criteria, I cannot support” a bond bill, Reeves said.
Reeves also reiterated his support for charter schools in every district where enough parents want to form one. Who can trigger the charter law was a sticking point in last year’s session, with splits forming among those who held views similar to Reeves’, and those who wanted charter schools only in districts rated as unsuccessful or failing.
There will be another bill this session aimed at lowering the ceiling for which the MDA can spend out of its revolving loan fund without legislative approval. Currently, the MDA can spend up to $468 million before having to ask lawmakers’ permission. The fund is used to help economic development prospects with costs related to coming to Mississippi.
Last year, a bill passed the Senate that would have lowered the limit from $468 million to $50 million. It died in the House Ways and Means Committee when chairman Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, did not bring it up for a vote.
“I do not believe the Mississippi Development Authority ought to have $468 million to spend on whatever project they want to spend it on,” Reeve said.
Reeves affirmed his opposition to the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, and said there would be no “serious, significant discussion” about it until the federal government clarifies certain rules. Particularly, Reeves said, states who opt out of the Medicaid expansion need to know if disproportionate share payments – made to hospitals that write off the cost of large amounts of treatment to indigent patients – will remain or be eliminated.
The 2013 session gavels to a start Tuesday at noon.