Reeves Defends State Bond Allocations | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Reeves Defends State Bond Allocations

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Mayor Harvey Johnson urges residents to add their information to the CodeRED database.

A Jackson legislator said the city got a raw deal out of the State Bond Commission's recent decision to not allocate $6 million in interest-free bonds to repair the city's aging water system.

"(The Commission) need(s) to rethink what they did and try to help the city of Jackson get its water system working," Rep. Credell Calhoun, D-Jackson, said.
State Treasurer Tate Reeves attributed the commission's decision to the state's continuing effort to reduce its debt.

"It is pretty standard procedure for any entity getting new bond money to sit down at least with me and my office so we can understand what the use of the proceeds are going to be, what they're going to spend the money on," Reeves told the Jackson Free Press today. "And we get very specific. In the first four years the governor and I were in office, we had less debt on the books at the end of that four-year period than we had in the beginning, and we completely curbed the growth of our debt burden. We didn't do that by running around, chasing people and begging them to take money."

Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. announced yesterday that the city had already budgeted for $6 million in interest-free bonds from the state to finance much needed water and sewer repairs around the city, including Capitol Street, and would likely have to re-configure the budget to reflect new interest rates to get an alternative loan. The re-appropriation could force the city to raise water and sewer rates.

"No one from the bond commission's office has made any contact with the city at all, "Johnson said. "I'm sorry the severity of the water system issue that the capital city faces is not apparently recognized by the bond commission. We were counting on these dollars. We are in the middle of the budgeting process and had included them in the upcoming fiscal year's budget. And this is truly a great setback for the citizens of Jackson."

State Department of Finance and Administration spokeswoman Kym Wiggins--who did not immediately return calls to the Jackson Free Press--told the Clarion-Ledger that Department of Finance employees abandoned the $6 million bond because the city "had other options" for financing water improvements, including loans from the Mississippi State Department of Health or the Department of Environmental Quality.

Interim City Administrator Rick Hill said, however, that those departments cannot authorize loans for the entirety of the city's water repair needs. He warned that the city would most likely have to carry its loan to the bond market, which could demand between a 3 or 5 percent interest.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, said the House and the Senate approved the $6 million bond proposal for the city, and that the refusal of the bond commission to take up the bond may have been a private decision behind closed doors.

"Apparently a considerable amount of lobbying had to be done after the bond left the legislature. What happened here is not too unusual. I've had bonds pass the Legislature and take six years to get to the hands of the people to whom it was directed," Watson said, adding that "somebody" involved with the bond commission decided that "(they) just won't sell the bond."

Reeves said he could not say if the policy of pushing bond beneficiaries to interact with the bond commission prior to votes was exclusive to his administration.

"I don't know what they did prior to my seven years in office, but this is the way we do it now," Reeves said. "There are several hundred (bond) projects that are outstanding. The entities have to convince two of the three commission members that it makes sense from the state taxpayers' standpoint that the long-term benefits outweigh the costs," Reeves said, adding that the city's request never made it to commission members during their July 12 vote.

Johnson, however, said he did not recall having to lobby the bond commission to endorse a Legislature-approved bond in any of his prior administrations.

"We've had bond issues before. Farish Street was about a $6 million bond from early in my first administration, which the bond commission approved. The only difference was the make-up of the bond commission," Johnson said.

Reeves said he did not agree with the term "lobby," but assured that this setback did not amount to an outright refusal.

"These bonds have a four-year window. It's not accurate to say the commission voted them down. They have not been approved, yet, but that doesn't mean it is over. ... I couldn't tell you today what the $6 million is going to be spent on. I do look forward to meeting the city officials to better understand exactly what they plan to do with the money in the event that commission gives it to them."

Previous Comments

ID
159118
Comment

Just another way the state is screwing Jackson.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-08-05T13:44:43-06:00
ID
159119
Comment

This is a strange turn of events. The Legislature approved the bond, but the Bond Commission dropped the ball??? And maybe on purpose? Good Lord. And they expect cities to "lobby"? Really? Did the governor bring his D.C. lobbying ethos to the city? I have an idea: Let the Bond Commission use outhouses going forward.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-08-05T13:47:29-06:00
ID
159122
Comment

We've also heard that some of the mayor's detractors have shopped this around, spinning it into the city's fault because the state is reneging. Strange logic. Worse, it is remarkable that anyone would try to play politics with the city's water infrastructure problems! What kind of person would do that? Certainly, if they live and work in Jackson, they should do what they can to help remedy the situation, especially if they have pull with Republican lawmakers. Just sayin'.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-08-05T13:54:43-06:00
ID
159129
Comment

Tate Reeves is unbelievable. His office is in Jackson. How could he not have known that Jackson had a water crisis this winter when the pipes burst? How could he not have known that Jackson had a water emergency a few weeks ago when the cap blew off a water pipe and put the city under another boil water notice. There is no way he could be so oblivious to these incidents and not know that repairing Jackson's antiquated water system is a must. What I would like to hear from Mr Reeves is who urged him to put the $2 million bond in to make Capitol St two ways. And why did he think making Capitol St two ways is more important than upgrading Jackson's water system? Is it that the Capitol Street bond money will upgrade the property and income of some big time republicans who own the parking garage? Leave it republicans, who will always vote to do everything for their fat cat friends and say screw the general public!!!

Author
wellington
Date
2010-08-05T15:18:48-06:00
ID
159130
Comment

It WAS a bit presumptuous to include the bond money in the upcoming budget. Counting chickens before they're hatched, anyone?

Author
bill_jackson
Date
2010-08-05T15:48:06-06:00
ID
159136
Comment

Could the city cut off the water to state office buildings for a while? Just a means of playing hardball.

Author
Pilgrim
Date
2010-08-05T17:41:11-06:00
ID
159139
Comment

Bill, note that this is the way it is traditionally done. The Legislature approved the bond! Who would imagine that, suddenly, the Republicans up there would want to be "lobbied" for it. This isn't going to help the rumor that they have it in for Jackson.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-08-05T18:12:49-06:00
ID
159157
Comment

Here's how I see it. The bond process changed when Reeves and Barbour came into office as Percy Watson admitted in the story. The mayor should have been aware of this instead of relying on past experience. Even if Reeves doesn't want to call it lobbying, all municipalities have to lobby for what they want. The former lobbyist for the city would have known about this. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the $6 million would've gone towards upgrading the water and sewer lines along Capital Street.

Author
maybob95
Date
2010-08-05T20:32:02-06:00
ID
159158
Comment

That's one way to look at it, Maybob. Another is to not abdicate all responsibility from the bond commission. Here's FOX40 tonight: After Jackson’s January water crisis left thousands across the city without water because rundown water lines crumbled, Mayor Harvey Johnson got approval from state leaders for $6 million in bonds from the state. However, it had to be approved by the State Bond Commission, which consists of Governor Haley Barbour, Attorney General Jim Hood and Reeves. They never took up the request. “That is very frustrating,” said Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr. “Anybody who was in Jackson, Mississippi in January understands the severity of this problem.” Perhaps those three men are all too busy playing politics right now to think much about the water situation in the city they work in. It is also clear that members of the Jackson legislative delegation didn't know that these state officials have decided that they should be lobbied these days: “I'm very surprised, shocked and disappointed,” said State Senator Hillman Frazier who voted in favor of the bond when it was being considered in the state legislature before it got to the bond commission. “I didn't see this coming at all.” I'll say it again: It is unbelievable to play politics with water infrastructure.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-08-05T20:55:31-06:00
ID
159165
Comment

You guys have already said everything I wanted to say! I am .45 cal hot right now about this!? Will cut off their own nose, in spite of their faces, to think its going to hurt you more!? Common freakin' sense legislation, once again to the wayside! Good lord I don't smoke, but someone pass me a cigarette for my nerves!

Author
Duan C.
Date
2010-08-06T06:27:38-06:00
ID
159168
Comment

Maybob95, I can't respond correctly when you changed the rules of the game but didn't tell me the rules changed. I can't help but think that with so much at risk, that the process for securing bonds would be more defined and strategic, in other words, there should be a clearly defined process in place. Instead it looks like the Governor & Tate Reeves want the city of Jackson to get on their knees and beg... They are trying to humilate the Mayor but I hope people see this charade for what it is....

Author
lanier77
Date
2010-08-06T07:32:05-06:00
ID
159169
Comment

If the approval of the bond was already made, it makes no since for the city to lobby for it. This is just asinine.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-08-06T07:44:50-06:00
ID
159170
Comment

Okay, sorry y'all - thought I have vented everything out of my system in regards to this matter? But, I guess not I can see if the mayor asked for bond money to add grass to the hwy 80 corridor, of he wanted to add 10 olympic style swimming pools to the community centers in the city, or he wanted to by 80 new vehicles to the municiplaties fleet. But the man asked for something that was a critical need, he asked for something that was totally ignored by previous administrators for the last 60 years and that has been patched on since its enception, something that would benefit the people that work and live in this states capital city, biggest city. We are talking infrastructre, this affects water, sewage and roads? Common freakin' sense legislation and hard line politics, wow - all I can say, ignorance is sheer bliss for some people!

Author
Duan C.
Date
2010-08-06T07:59:50-06:00
ID
159171
Comment

to me, there is plenty of blame to go around in this fiasco. on the one hand, yes there was ample evidence, based on the water main breaks, that the city badly needs an upgrade to the water and sewer lines. considering all parties involved in this work in downtown Jackson, this wasn't a request that came out of the blue. the commission probably should have gone the extra mile to reach out to the city and talk about the request. on the other hand, i wouldn't absolve the city from culpability here, either. if it is such an urgent need, do a little extra work to "lobby" on your behalf and make sure it happens. don't just submit a proposal and think because it got through one stage that it will automatically get through the next. you have to fight for these things. you can't just assume others feel the same way about this issue as you. you have to make your case. the city should've been reaching out to the commission, not waiting on the commission to call. that is not leadership. last note. there were many people on here crushing king frank (and rightfully so) for missing out on federal funds because he didn't have folks up in dc lobbying for us. i would hope those same people hold harvey to the same standard for not having his people down at the state offices "lobbying" for this...

Author
eyerah
Date
2010-08-06T10:25:48-06:00
ID
159174
Comment

I don't think anyone comes out squeaky clean in this, either, eyerah. But it is weird to watch some Republicans try to use it as a way to blast the city for not knowing that the rules changed. (We are requested the Bond Commission's guidelines to municipalities explaining the procedure and other materials.) The most disturbing thing to me, so far, is how political this process seems to have become since Barbour came to office. We should know more specifics soon, and we'll share. I know a lot about Frank Melton and what he did no the lobbying front and more, and this seems to be a different situation. I am going to be very surprised if the state expects the city to "lobby" for something that the Legislature has already approved in a way that seems outside the regular lobbying procedures. Note that Reeves does not want to use the word "lobbying," and there may be very real reasons for that: because lobbying wouldn't be appropriate in these circumstances? Perhaps "grovel" would be the preferred word? More to come. I would suggest watching the political hyperbole on this one. There are people spreading half-facts out there for political reasons. Let's sort out the whole story before drawing too many conclusions.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-08-06T10:41:25-06:00

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