Bonds can be boon for state, legislator says

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – State Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said Thursday it is not accurate to look just at Mississippi’s bonded indebtedness without also taking into account the positive impact much of that debt has had on the state general fund.
Bryan, speaking at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday designed to educate members on the process of issuing bonds, pointed out much of the debt issued in the past decade has been to lure economic development projects to the state.
He said those projects, such as Nissan in Canton, approved in 2002, and Toyota in Blue Springs, approved in 2010, should pay for themselves in the coming years in new tax revenue for the state.
“The common sense is that Nissan was a pretty good deal,” said Bryan, who told the state treasurer’s office it would be beneficial to study the impact on such projects as Nissan and Toyota on the state general fund.
The issue of the state selling bonds and incurring long-term debt to finance projects has been contentious. Many fear that the state’s bond debt has grown too much. It is about $5 billion.
It is projected that for the current fiscal year that debt will cost the state $436.6 million or about 8 percent of the general fund. The state also is retiring about $250 million per year in debt.
During the 2012 session the Legislature did not approve any bonds because the House and Senate could not agree on how big the bond package should be. Senate Finance Committee Chair Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, who called Thursday’s meeting to educate his members, said he hopes the two chambers can agree on an amount during the upcoming session.
In recent years, the state has issued bonds for new buildings, building repairs, economic development projects and highways.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com