The Department of Finance and Administration has finally made its long-awaited recommendation for a new permanent home for the Department of Revenue, which is now housed in a Quonset hut in Clinton.
Overseers of state buildings, DFA announced this week that DOR should sign a 20-year lease for the old WorldCom Building, now called the South Pointe Building, also in Clinton. Doing so will cost the state $2.9 million upfront and $41.2 million total over the course of the lease.
Two other sites were in competition for the DOR home: The Landmark Center in downtown Jackson and the longer shot Ergon-owned Diversified Technologies Building, in Madison County. The Landmark Building, which housed AT&T up until November 2012, seemed like the most attractive option, for taxpayers, state government operations and for Jackson.
Gov. Haley Barbour's administration even gave its blessing to the downtown location by accepting the findings of an independent consultant's report that said purchasing the Landmark Building would be the cheapest of all the alternatives.
Since that report came out in 2011, the building's price has dropped precipitously and now hovers just above $7 million.
Earlier this year, business experts from Millsaps College determined that regardless of whether DOR moved to the Landmark Center, the state should consider consolidating more state office space, which could save $30 million over two decades.
Putting more state offices into the capital city would breathe life into Jackson's economy as well as ongoing downtown revitalization efforts, which not only represent potential new tax revenues but a more attractive place for state employees and others already working in the business district.
Choosing the WorldCom building appears to bear the imprimatur of House Speaker Philip Gunn, who, as a Clinton representative, was in an understandably tough political spot.
But Gunn and other Republican officials have also stated--in no uncertain terms--that they are unwilling to budge on either full funding for Mississippi's public schools or Medicaid expansion because the state's treasury is too small to afford either. This is to say nothing of the innumerable tax breaks doled to businesses to ostensibly spur job creation that will divert money away from Mississippi's coffers.
In a statement, local businessmen and downtown boosters Leland Speed and Ben Allen said they want state officials to unseal the other proposals for the DOR HQ for public scrutiny.
"We feel that several discrepancies are very obvious in the confidential executive summary issued by the DFA, and that the public has a right to have access to these proposals for public vetting before the process can be considered complete," Allen and Speed wrote.
We agree, and we call on Mississippi officials provide a full accounting for their decision not to relocate the Department of Revenue in Jackson.