Treasurer Lynn Fitch wrote to legislative leadership Wednesday to share her disappointment with and criticism of the $308-million bond bill, HB 1729, amongst other legislative measures rushed through in the closing hours of this session.
“This bill is the same kind of Christmas-tree-collection of earmarked goodies that many of these same state legislators rail against Congress for pushing through in the dead of night,” said Treasurer Lynn Fitch. “When the State issues bonds, we’re obligating Mississippi taxpayers both today and tomorrow to pay back that debt. The Legislature should be painstakingly conscientious of every project it approves. Too many projects in this bill fail to meet even the basic tests for what the State should, or even can, be issuing bonds.”
As Treasurer Fitch told the Legislature in her most recent Economic Briefing, given in late February 2016, and her most recent Debt Affordability Study, released in early March 2016, every man, woman, and child in Mississippi already carries a debt burden of $1,747.
I have worked for the people of this state for more than 30 years, as a legislative counsel, a state employee, an agency head, and now as a statewide elected official. I have great respect for the institutions of Mississippi’s government and for the men and women who serve the people of this great state. However, like many, I was deeply disappointed by some of the actions the Legislature chose to take, as well as some of the actions the Legislature chose to ignore, in the final days of this session.
My staff and I went through this bill section-by-section and were shocked to see so many items included that could not meet even the basic standards for issuing bonds. These are not my rules. They are largely governed by the IRS to ensure their tax-exempt status. For instance:
I don’t debate the worthiness of these individual projects. Each has value to some community or I am certain it would not be under consideration by the Legislature. The question is whether they have such value to the State as a whole that they warrant our borrowing $308 million on behalf of all Mississippi taxpayers. There are other, more appropriate funding vehicles for local projects.
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