Each year, the Mississippi Legislature usually passes a “Christmas tree” bond bill loaded with earmarks for various districts.
This year, the conference committee shoehorned those items into a bill that would fund capital projects at the state’s institutes of higher learning. They also removed language that would’ve started a phaseout of the state’s income tax.
Senate Bill 2971 would issue $86 million for projects at the state’s universities and $35 million for the state’s community and junior colleges.
In addition to those funds, taxpayers will also be borrowing more than $24 million for these projects:
- The Chickasaw Heritage Center in Tupelo will receive $16 million, which is to be matched by the Chickasaw Inkana Foundation.
- $2 million to build an amphitheater and song writers’ museum in Gautier on the grounds of the former Singing River Mall.
- $1.425 million for repair and renovation of the Columbus City Hall and associated buildings.
- $1 million for the restoration and renovation of the Old Wesson School in Wesson.
- $500,000 for the repair and expansion of the Kosciusko Natchez Trace Visitor Center.
- $425,000 for the acquisition and furnishing by the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation for the L.Q.C. Lamar Home in Oxford.
- $400,000 to repair and renovate the Humphreys County Courthouse.
- $400,000 to restore the Tate County Courthouse.
- $300,000 to restore the Winterville Indian Mounds in Washington County.
- $300,000 for resurfacing Tate-Panola Road.
- $250,000 to refurbish Shubuta’s town hall.
- $250,000 for a welcome center in Okolona.
- $250,000 for repair and restoration of the Wayne County Courthouse.
- $250,000 for the Amory Regional Museum.
- $100,000 for the Jacinto Courthouse.
- $100,000 for repair and improvements to a Confederate cemetery in Jefferson County.
- $100,000 for repairs to lighting at the intersection of Interstate 55 and State Highway 740 in Senatobia.
- $100,000 for restoration of the Tallahatchie County Courthouse.
That adds up to more than $145 million in new debt for taxpayers.
This year’s appropriation for debt service will be more than $439 million, which is more than that for the Department of Corrections (more than $323 million) or the Department of Mental Health’s general fund appropriation ($214 million).
State taxpayers owe more than $4.634 billion in bond debt, according to the latest numbers from the state treasurer’s office.