By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves says the state Senate will make a renewed effort during the 2014 session to pass legislation that could reduce office space for some state agencies.
During the 2013 session, the Senate passed legislation to develop a centralized policy for the use of state office space, but the proposal died in the House.
The first-term lieutenant governor spoke Monday at the Mississippi State University/Capitol press corps luncheon on the eve of the opening of the 2014 legislative session, which convenes at noon today.
He said research has revealed that state agencies allocate much more space per employee than do businesses.
In the private sector, Reeves said there is normally about 220 square feet per employee compared to 350 square feet per state employee. He said a centralized system at the Department of Finance and Administration could ensure agencies are cost-efficient in renting space.
“We have to continue to ensure transparency and efficiency in the way state agencies spend money,” said Reeves, explaining that any savings allows more investment “in our priorities.” He cited education as a key priority.
Reeves said he hopes in 2014 that the state’s 2013 charter school law can be amended to allow students to cross district lines to attend a charter school. Reeves said otherwise it will be difficult to locate charter schools in rural areas where existing districts have small enrollments.
He also said he sees no need to require the executive director of the Charter School Authorizing Board to be an attorney as the new law requires.
Reeves predicted there would be an effort to consolidate more school districts. The number has been reduced by seven as a result of legislation passed during the past two sessions to consolidate districts in Clay, Oktibbeha, Bolivar and Sunflower counties.
Even though state revenue collections are growing, Reeves said the focus of the session will be on fiscal restraint and not on funding costly new programs. He said he and Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, are in agreement on most issues and that the state is being governed “from a right-of-center approach.”
In that light, he said, “I oppose any new taxes to be put in place on individuals or companies,” including a new tax on motor fuel. Increasing taxes, possibly on gasoline, has been discussed as a method to pay for infrastructure improvements.
Reeves said “a continuing conversation “must be had on improving infrastructure – not only roads and bridges, but also water and sewer.” But he said both local municipalities and the state must look for ways to make those improvements with existing revenue.
Reeves said he opposes giving local communities the authority to levy a voter-approved sales tax for specific infrastructure improvements.