/Capitol Complex bill may be Jackson windfall

Capitol Complex bill may be Jackson windfall

The Senate bill’s co-author, Sen. David Blount (D-Jackson), stated that “(The Capitol Complex legislation] would be the first time that the state has acknowledged that it also is responsible for infrastructure maintenance and upkeep.” Mayor Tony Yarber stated that the State’s willingness “to share the unique responsibility associated with a State Capital is a laudable initiative that will aid in stabilizing central Mississippi and spur future economic growth across the State.” The bills under consideration would create the “Capitol Complex Improvement District.” This area stretches west from the Pearl River to Bailey Avenue and includes a few parcels that include Jackson State University and the Jackson Medical Mall. It also includes Mississippi Public Broadcasting, LeFleur’s Bluff State Park and the Fondren’s Ren retail area. A five-member board would oversee the complex. The governor would appoint 2 members, the lieutenant governor will appoint 2 members, and the mayor would appoint 1. Two of the five members must reside in Hinds County. Other members could be from Rankin or Madison counties. Annually, the legislation would divert 12.5 percent of local sales taxes revenue to the Capitol Complex’s fund manager. The board can borrow up to 25% of its improvement fund under state authority. With the help of an advisory panel, the board of the complex would prepare an infrastructure plan. The final plan of the board could include any number improvements to roads, drainage systems and buildings in the Capitol Complex area. Blount stated that Jackson will continue to get all of the sales tax revenue it collects within the city. Blount stated that this is new money, and that it would receive all the sales tax collected within the city. The Mississippi Department of Revenue estimates that the additional sales taxes that are sent to the Capitol Complex’s improvement funds would amount to just over $21,000,000 annually. About $3 million of that money would be paid directly to the city, to cover the cost of providing fire and police protection services to the Capitol Complex. Many see the extra money as a boon for the city. Jackson, a city with a declining population for decades, has struggled to find the money needed to invest in infrastructure projects. Even though the bill is still in conference committee, sponsors are still unsure if it will be similar to what they submitted. Senator John Horhn (D-Jackson), is worried about the language removed from his Senate bill. “The house took out language in my bill calling for the state follow the city’s EBO guidelines which ensures minorities participation… It is crucial to be in the bill’s language.” Horhn also stated that the composition of its board of directors may favor the needs of those living in the suburbs, rather than those in the city. The City of Jackson Council approved last year’s Capitol Complex as part of its 2016 legislative agenda. However, some council members are still skeptical about some provisions of the legislation. Ward 4 Councilman De’Keither Stamps is concerned that upto five percent of the improvements funds could be used for administration. This could lead to $1.2 million in additional staff. Stamps stated that he would prefer that the money be directed to the city’s public-works department, as that’s where real staff is. Blount replied, “We need more people doing the work.” Akil Bakari, spokesperson for the coalition, stated that this was part of a wider trend in dealings with the city. He stated that while we aren’t opposed to additional funding for Jackson, the state of Mississippi has always had an overall agenda for Jackson, especially for the past 20 years when you have had a majority-black mayor and city council. Bakari believes the problem is that the money comes with the board of directors that will draft the plan for improvement projects. Blount supported the bill, pointing out the need for approval by the city council.