Wednesday, January 25, 2017
The City of Jackson gets another chance at an infrastructure revitalization bill this session, but the additions that led to the death of last year's Capitol Complex bill hang heavy over new attempts to garner Jackson a little more tax money to repair its crumbling roadways.
Last session, the legislation was set to add $21 million to the capital city's infrastructure efforts with approval by a commission of appointees state and local leaders would choose. In the last hours of the legislative session in conference between the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Senate, lawmakers added provisions to the Capitol Complex Bill that defunded the bill and added a new judicial appointment to the Capitol Complex District.
The bill died, but Sen. David Blount and the rest of Jackson delegation have introduced a new plan, SB 2891, with some tweaks set to appease the Republican supermajority.
The biggest change for the new version of the Capitol Complex Bill, called the State Capital Infrastructure Fund, is that the state Department of Finance and Administration will hold the reins for the program. Blount says the almost $24 million that he expects the fund to accumulate annually will be concentrated on roadways that access state buildings, offsetting the cost that Jackson incurs as host to the state government. The governor would appoint the DFA executive director, giving him direct control over the program implementation.
The DFA executive director would head an 11-person committee comprised of appointees, some from the city, some from local interests and four from the leaders of the state government. The plan from the committee would then move to the Jackson City Council for approval, with renewal at least every five years.
Blount said he believes handing control of the program to the governor is a fair exchange for the influx of cash that the city desperately needs, predicting that Gov. Bryant is simply going to fix Capitol Street. Which would be fine, great, wonderful, but only if the bill comes through the legislative process relatively free of more authoritative chains thrown about it at the last minute, like lawmakers tried last year at the last hour, thus killing the bill.
But while on the subject of chains, what's with all the commissions and committees holding the strings that lead to the new sources of money? When will the state Legislature embrace conservative local-control principles and let Jackson determine for itself where to spend its money? If the state wants to have a more inviting and attractive Jackson, the best way forward is being cooperative, inclusive and, most of all, trusting. Checks and balances are fine, but the desire for absolute control hurts the capital city and, thus, the entire state.
Of course, if lawmakers are willing to extend the olive branch, it is up to Jackson to follow through with both cooperation and high-quality execution, all in an effort to turn back the ongoing narrative of "us vs. them" and "State vs. Jackson." Besides, potholes don't pick which cars to destroy.
Let's fix this.