A bill that would have allocated a third of the state’s first economic damages settlement from BP towards roads statewide has died in the House. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports on what happens next.
The state is expected to receive $150 million this year for economic damages from the 2010 oil spill. Republican Representative Charles Busby of Pascagoula filed a motion to reconsider a bill that would have used 50 million dollars from the first payment for bonds to repair roads and bridges statewide.
"With the help of the Ways & Means chairman and the with the help of the speaker, we were able to let that bill die on the calendar," Busby says.
What happens next in the allocation process is still uncertain. Busby says he'd like to see the funds spent in the southern counties of the state – including, he says, on transportation projects.
"And in essence, we would be freeing up some dollars that would be used inthe rest of the state," he says, "but we would be focusing those dollars on our region."
Representative Scott Delano, a Republican from Biloxi, says the coast delegation is working with house and senate leadership to find the best approach to using this money. He’d like to see it used on projects that will, as he puts it, yield a return.
That could include roads and bridges in south Mississippi, he says, "but I would like for those projects not to be repair and replacement or repaving. But I would like for it to be new infrastructure, or new investment, that will yield additional dollars to the general fund.”
The state hasn’t yet received any money from the settlement, which still needs final approval from a judge. Lawmakers say the funds may be allocated through the regular appropriations process, this year or next, after the state receives the funding.
Democratic Representative David Baria of Bay St Louis says he's disappointed that legislation determining how the money would be spent didn't pass.
"What I wanted to see happen was I wanted open hearings, and let's decide as a body what we think is the best plan for spending this money, with at least 80% of it going to the three coastal counties. And it looks like, at least for now, that’s not going to happen," he says.
It's also possible a special session could be called later this year once the state has the funds in hand.