UPDATE: Barbour says special session call coming

JACKSON — Gov. Haley Barbour has told a gathering of business leaders in Jackson that he will call a special legislative session late next week for a $300 million economic development project in the Delta.

Barbour told the Mississippi Economic Council gathering on Wednesday that the project will create up to 500 jobs in five years.

He did not say what kind of company. However, Barbour said the project is not a startup company run by a Chinese businessman who hopes to build a car plant in Tunica County.

Barbour said the plant is not automotive but he called it a sophisticated manufacturing facility.

He would not talk about the incentives he will ask lawmakers to provide, but said the state’s share would be no more than 10 percent of the overall project.

Barbour said he would call lawmakers in on Oct. 29 or Oct. 30 and hoped it will be a one-day session.

Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority generally remain quiet about possible economic development projects until they’re ready to make an announcement.

Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, said several of his Senate colleagues have called him because they’d heard about the possible special session. Burton said he hoped the session will be quick if there is one.

“Let’s get in and out as quick as we can on those things because we don’t have the money to spend,” Burton said. “Let’s make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted before he calls one.”

Barbour has called three special sessions already this year, two of which were to complete work on a state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. The first special session, which took place during the regular session, was to give county supervisors more leeway to spend local tax money on roads and bridges.

A special session usually costs at least $30,000 a day. Mississippi’s tax collections fell significantly short of expectations during the first three months of the fiscal year, and Barbour cut nearly $172 million — or about 2.9 percent — out of the nearly $6 billion budget in early September. He has said more budget cuts are likely.

Speculation had been that Barbour — who recently traveled to Asia — would call a special session on incentives for GreenTech Automotive Inc., which wants to locate a $2 billion plant on 1,500 acres in Tunica County.

GreenTech’s owner, Xiaolin “Charles” Wang, held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 6 at the site where he said he intends to build the car plant. GreenTech had not yet purchased the property, and an incentive package was still being negotiated, said Tunica County Chamber of Commerce President Lyn Arnold.

Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press