Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has signed into law a bill that guarantees three-quarters of future BP oil spill settlement money will be spent on the Gulf Coast. MPB’s Evelina Burnett was in Gulfport Wednesday evening when the governor put pen to paper.
The bill says 75 percent of the settlement money will go into a new Gulf Coast Restoration Fund, which will be administered by the Mississippi Development Authority and have an advisory board with seven members, appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house.
Governor Bryant says the law will bring $30 million annually to the coast over the next 15 years.
“This amount of funds into the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the lower six counties, will have a remarkable effect on the economy," he says. "Because you see, we’re going to ask you to help us to make sure that we create jobs and grow industry here, with this investment."
Governor Bryant was joined for the bill signing by legislators from the coast and throughout the state. Republican State Senator Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula was one of the co-authors of the bill.
“It’s something that we’ve been working for probably three years now, and we’re really happy about it because it represents a lot of hard work that went into it," Senator Wiggins said.
Ashley Edwards is president of the Gulf Coast Business Council. He says coast businesses have named this as one of their top priorities for the past several years.
“Our coastal businesses are on the front lines of our economy, and they were on the front lines of the effects of the oil spill," he says. "So they wanted to make sure that we invested the money for maximized returns. And what that means to them is doing things that bring more people to the coast, bring more investment of outside dollars to the coast, and ensuring that we have sustainable jobs and a sustainable economy going forward.”
The law says the remaining 25 percent of the spill money will go into a state BP settlement fund that can be used for projects throughout the rest of Mississippi.