/Cities, counties urge lawmakers to approve federal spending

Cities, counties urge lawmakers to approve federal spending

In a Monday letter to legislators, Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons wrote that “The cities of this state are willing and ready to turn dirt and move vital infrastructure projects forward using (American Rescue Plan Act] matching grants.” McIntire and Simmons are the presidents of both the Mississippi Municipal League (Mississippi Association of Supervisors) and the Mississippi Association of Supervisors. READ MORE: Mississippi procrastinates, as other states plan, to spend billions on pandemic stimuli “But, we cannot make this happen without legislative approval,” they wrote. We are worried that the federal government might start to ‘claw back’ funds that haven’t been spent or committed. The clock is ticking with these ARPA funds. We are concerned that the Legislature could delay addressing ARPA funds until 2023. This could potentially jeopardize some of the fund’s use in Mississippi.” They said that local governments may run out of time to plan, bid for and complete projects before the Dec. 31, 2026 deadline. This is especially important given inflation and supply chain issues. ARPA funds are combined for $900 million in Mississippi counties and cities. The state has received $1.8 billion. Both the Senate and House made proposals to the state for matching local infrastructure spending. This would allow for more significant upgrades. Many counties and cities have deteriorated water, sewerage and roads. ARPA funds are an opportunity to fix this. Delbert Hosemann described the ARPA funds as a “transformational and generational” opportunity. READ MORE: Hosemann is concerned that federal funds could be lost as a result of the tax battle. But Hosemann and his Senate leadership are at odds with Philip Gunn, House Speaker, and his leadership on tax cuts. Gunn insists that legislation be passed to repeal the personal income tax. This is about one-third state revenue. Although a modester tax cut was proposed by the Senate, it would still be the most significant ever passed by the state. Gunn and other House leaders threatened to halt ARPA spending and other legislation, if the Senate does not agree with the plan for eliminating income taxes. Gov. Tate Reeves also supports eliminating the income taxes and called Gunn’s threat to halt ARPA spending “impressive” and “a smart move.” When we have this much money, the taxpayers should be the first ones to enjoy it.” Mississippi is currently behind in spending ARPA money. According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Mississippi is among four states, districts, or territories that have not yet allocated significant amounts of ARPA money. Hosemann visited the state to meet with local leaders, and held hearings in the fall and summer of 2021 to discuss ARPA spending. He urged Gunn to push the House to do so. Hosemann wrote an opinion column over the weekend that stated: “Let’s be clear: For our state, failing to allocate the $1.8 billion federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for infrastructure or recovery projects is not a rational choice. Last week, members of the state House of Representatives voiced concern about the allocation of these dollars to unrelated legislation. “… While we wait for the critical funding to expand hospital ICU beds, provide broadband service to rural areas and support child protective services, our citizens and communities are still waiting. The Senate was able to get on the ground in January after meeting with stakeholders, holding public hearings, and preparing an ARPA plan for the Session. Because the clock is ticking. Mississippi doesn’t have the time to wait.