TUPELO – Gov. Haley Barbour said Monday the construction of a state civil rights museum should not be contingent on raising private money for the project.
During an interview with the Daily Journal editorial board, the Republican governor and likely presidential candidate reiterated his support for passage of legislation this session to fund the civil rights museum in conjunction with a separate Mississippi history museum.
“I would like for this session to come out with a civil rights museum … based on state funding,” Barbour said.
He added, “To make building of the museums contingent on private funds is something we have never done. And I don’t think we should now.”
Other state-owned museums, such as the Old Capitol Museum and the Museum of Natural History, have not required a match from the private sector, he said.
As Barbour spoke of the two museums, technically the matter is dead in the Legislature. House and Senate leaders have been deadlocked on the issue because the Senate leaders, generally Barbour’s allies on legislative matters, have insisted that a private match – basically 50 cents for each state dollar – be raised to build the museums.
House and Senate leaders had agreed to issue $30 million in bonds to finance the construction of the two museums in Jackson. But the inability to agree on whether to require a private match killed the issue – for now.
Senator: Private match ‘appropriate’
Sen. Giles Ward, R-Louisville, said requiring the private match “is an appropriate measure, given the current condition the state budget is in and the revenue sources.”
Although the issue is dead, it could be revived. Late Monday, it appeared that House and Senate leaders were making a renewed effort to reach agreement with perhaps language requiring private funds for the purchase of artifacts, but not to start construction.
“I think we need to authorize it this year so it can be built by the bicentennial,” said Barbour, referring to the state’s 200th birthday in 2017. “I have spent my whole time as governor trying to improve the image of the state … This is another way to greatly improve the image of the state.”
The idea of a Mississippi civil rights museum has been debated for years. Barbour gave it new life earlier this session during his state of the state speech when he said the museum should be authorized this year.
Barbour said he believes private funds can be raised later for the project. But the legislation, he said, should not mandate private funds to build the museums.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau