/Jackson lawmakers discuss why it’s hard to land state funding

Jackson lawmakers discuss why it’s hard to land state funding

Despite having unprecedented amounts of federal and state money to support infrastructure needs, the state didn’t grant the city the money it needed, especially for its water and sewerage systems. The $25 million state match Jackson’s delegation expected to receive will be subject to rigorous state oversight. Similar state oversight will not be given to any other local government in the state. The state oversight is necessary for a variety of reasons, Sen. John Horhn (D-Jackson) stated. “The city has not in the recent years engendered much trust as far as (Jackson) state’s concerns about (Jackson’s) ability to perform efficiently, expeditiously some of those repairs.” Sen. David Blount of Jackson said that the special state Department of Finance and Administration oversight was required for Jackson water and sewerage funding. The delegation accepted the requirement. Blount stated, “We were told this was going to be required and our goal was the money.” Blount said that there have been problems at Jackson water department. He also stated that the requirement was necessary to get the money. This perception is shared by legislators from other parts of the state. It’s partly because of the infighting between local governments, such as the ongoing fight between Jackson’s mayor, city council, over a garbage collection contract, as well as long-standing problems like crime. D-Jackson Rep. Chris Bell said that Jackson’s funding has been subject to oversight in the past. This was before the current administration. The 2009 Legislature gave the city authority to levy a 1-cent salestax to finance mainly road and bridge repairs. It also created a special commission to monitor the spending of the money. Bell stated that it was unfair then, and still isn’t fair today. Bell stated that Jackson has had a long tradition of receiving extra scrutiny in relation to the allocations of funds. Is that right? No. No. The city must also make use of federal resources. Local lobbying must be increased and more effective at the state level. The pointing game must be stopped by state and local leaders and they need to get on with the business of helping Jackson residents.” READ MORE. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said that the questioning of Jackson’s leadership and management were “myths” that legislators use to justify not providing the city with the necessary support. Many of the problems facing the city are decades old, he said. He said that racism is a factor in the views of majority-white legislators toward majority-Black Jackson. Lumumba stated, “I would ask them for their leadership problems.” Lumumba said, “Disagreement about our principles is not a leadership problem. This is a problem. It is not right for Jackson to be ruled over and made decisions for the city. You have a responsibility for Jackson’s residents just as you do for all Mississippi’s residents.” Lumumba also stated that there is “hypocrisy in the state government, which has been shaken by scandals of fraud and embezzlement. This means Jackson cannot manage resources or projects. Lumumba stated that he has not misappropriated funds. Lumumba said, “I have not given money to a personal project of mine over the needs of Jackson residents. We have only been trying to solve the problems that Jackson faces… The fact is, there is a determination by legislators not to give resources to Jackson. Lumumba stated that Jackson’s infrastructure needs and the fact that it is the capital and largest city in the state, meant that the state should have provided direct allocations to the city apart from the matching grant program for counties and cities statewide. Lumumba stated that he knew that the city’s legislative delegation was “inspired” to get something in exchange for not getting any at all. Lumumba also said that there will be people who disagree with Lumumba’s statement. But if they have heartburn, I will prove them wrong. I dare you. I challenge you to prove my wrong.” Rep. Shonda Yantes, I-Jackson said that she was looking for compromise when she wrote the bill establishing state oversight. She stated that the goal was to create a program in which the Legislature would provide funding for Jackson’s water problems with oversight from the state. She authored a bill that would have allocated $43 million to a fund that was subject to state oversight. The legislative process resulted in the creation of a fund but not direct funding for Jackson. Instead, a program was created where federal American Rescue Plan funds received by the state could be accessed for water and sewer needs by municipalities if they provide a dollar-for–dollar match from other federal ARPA funds. To draw down the state match, Jackson will allocate $25 million. This is approximately 60% of its ARPA funds. These funds will only cover a small portion of the city’s needs. Jackson’s sewer and water problems could be costly. It is estimated that it could cost up to $2 billion. Federal officials have concerns about Jackson’s water safety. Yates stated that she hopes more state funding can be provided for Jackson’s sewer and water problems in the future. She said, “I definitely plan to advocate for such.” Blount stated that “we will be returning next year, and ARPA money remains.” Blount stated that there is a limit to how much money can be spent and the amount of work that can (by the city), be done in the next nine month. The state still has ARPA money, so we will be returning again.