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Legislative stalemate delays water/sewer funding needs for Jackson

Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 7:02 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - While crews work to complete a transmission line that will eventually extend to south Jackson, the spigot of federal stimulus money that funded that endeavor has been shut off by state lawmakers clamoring over one legislator’s quest for income tax elimination.

At least $40 million would have been appropriated to the Capital City, State Rep. Shanda Yates told 3 On Your Side in February.

“All that is a moving target right now. We have not finalized how we plan to deploy any of the infrastructure money at this time,” said State Sen. John Horhn. “There are ways that we can put together a plan for the deployment of the funds. The question that remains is how are we going to get past this impasse that we have between the House and Senate to get something done?”

That impasse, Horhn said, is from House Speaker Philip Gunn relentlessly pushing to end the state’s income tax, and in Horhn’s words, holding $1.8 billion in federal funds hostage until lawmakers do the Speaker’s bidding.

“It’s unfortunate that the folks who need infrastructure, who need water, need sewer, who need roads are being victimized and, sort of held hostage while this fight goes on about tax reform that only one person in the state of Mississippi seems to really want to push,” Horhn said. “And that’s the Speaker. I think that it’s poor policy. It’s not a sign of great leadership.”

House Bill 1031 would have provided a fund for major projects in Jackson.

Earlier this month, senators stripped that language from the bill entirely with no guarantee of any funding for the city and replaced the language with wording that would establish a water quality commission.

Now the clock is ticking on whether that can be resolved and passed before the session ends.

“There’s a week left in the session. These bills are still alive; we still have a chance. And all of us who represented Jackson and Byram area are still pushing as hard as we can. We’re not dead yet. But we’re never going to have this kind of money again,” said State Sen. David Blount.

3 On Your Side broke down what Jackson needs in a three-part series on the water crisis last February.

If lawmakers don’t give any of the nearly $2 billion in federal money to the Capital City, that leaves leaders here with just $97 million obligated to address water and sewer system overhaul costs of more than $1.7 billion.

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