/Divvying up BP oil spill settlement funds could be tacked on to special session

Divvying up BP oil spill settlement funds could be tacked on to special session

The governor called for the special session at 10 a.m. on Thursday to attempt to find a solution to transportation issues on the local and state levels. For many years, legislators have not been able to find a solution to the issue of infrastructure. The official call Bryant made late Tuesday suggested that use tax revenue be diverted from education to transport and that a lottery be created with transportation revenue. Bryant stated that he would also like the legislature to address the BP settlement funds during the special session. Clay Chandler, Bryant’s spokesperson, stated that Bryant would likely add BP to his budget after transportation issues have been addressed. The difficult question of how to divide up the compensation funds received by the state for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spillage and explosion has been a problem for legislators. Many people believe that the majority of the money should go to the Gulf Coast. Some legislators from other parts aren’t so sure. Rep. William Tracy Arnold (R-Booneville) said that it was best to divide the money equally among all 82 counties. The state will receive $750 million as compensation for the loss of sales tax revenue due to the huge oil spillage that has affected tourism and other economic activities along the Gulf Coast. The state has already received $150 million in settlement funds, and the Legislature has spent approximately $50 million on projects primarily related to the Gulf Coast. Many, including the Lieutenant Governor, believe the settlement funds are compensation for the loss of economic activity along the Gulf Coast. Tate Reeves, the governor, and others believe that the majority of the settlement funds should be returned to the coast. Reeves stated that BP funds were set aside for the Gulf Coast, which will allow the settlement to benefit the area of Mississippi most affected by the 2010 disaster. This was after the Senate passed legislation in January to direct all funds to the Coast. “I have spoken extensively with people in the seafood and tourism industry, restaurant owners, and other community leaders about how the coast has changed since the oil spillage. I believe this is the right thing for Mississippi.” Sen. Brice Wiggins (R-Pascagoula) was the primary author of the Senate bill. Wiggins didn’t want to speculate about what might happen during the special session earlier this week. The $750million is part of a $2.2billion settlement that Attorney General Jim Hood and others negotiated for BP. The Coast’s environmental restoration projects will receive the bulk of the funds, aside from the $750million for economic damages. Additionally, funds have been provided to municipalities and counties along the coast for various issues, including reimbursement of at most a portion of the lost sales tax revenue. Both Speaker Philip Gunn and Reeves stated that the leaders were close to reaching an agreement on how to divide up the BP funds during the 2018 regular session. Reeves stated that the agreement provided 75 percent of funds to the coast counties, and the remainder for projects in other areas of the state. Reeves stated that the issue was that the House wanted the BP funds on deposit – approximately $100 million – to be used for projects throughout the state. Reeves stated that legislators ran out time before allocating the funds. Gunn agreed that “I will admit I felt like we had made good progress during this session.” “We ran out of time.” It remains to be seen if a proposal that diverts 75% of the revenue will get passed by rank-and-file legislators. Rep. Preston Sullivan (D-Okolona) stated that “I believe since the entire state suffered (based upon loss sales tax revenue), it should be 75-25 in the other direction.” Sullivan and others argue that municipalities only receive 18.5 percent of sales tax revenue (7 percent for most retail items), collected within their borders. The remainder goes to the state coffers. They argue that the $750 million settlement was intended to compensate the entire state and not just the Gulf Coast. Senator Hob Bryan (D-Amory) believes that the state’s political leadership has missed an opportunity to make the most of the settlement funds to address transportation problems. In a recent comment, he said that he would establish a bank for state infrastructure and fund it with money from BP settlement funds as well as any other funds available. It would issue bonds and allocate the funds to real infrastructure projects. The current plan would give local governments more money, and people would have more infrastructure. “x000D_If there is going to be a lotto – which I strongly oppose, by any means – then that’s where the lottery proceeds should go.”