Tuesday, December 11, 2018
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — One of Mississippi's three public service commissioners announced Monday that he won't seek re-election in 2019.
Central District Commissioner Cecil Brown, a Democrat from Jackson, made the announcement Monday at a forum sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government.
Brown is in his first term on the three-member utility regulatory body after 16 years in the Mississippi House.
During Brown's tenure, the commission has wrestled with the fate of Mississippi Power Co.'s multibillion-dollar Kemper County power plant. The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. canceled the $7.5 billion power plant last year under pressure from commissioners after billions in overruns. Regulators and the company finally agreed earlier this year that ratepayers would cover $1.1 billion of Kemper costs, while Mississippi Power absorbs $6.4 billion in losses.
Brown had previously announced he would seek a second term but said he changed his mind. The 74-year-old cited his age and his belief that others are ready to succeed him.
"I really do think there are some younger people out there who are ready to do this work," he said.
Brown said one person who is considering running for the seat is his chief of staff, Ryan Brown, who is unrelated.
Before serving in the House, Cecil Brown was the state's chief financial officer and chief of staff for Democratic Gov. Ray Mabus.
In his speech Monday, he spoke more to tax and other state policy than utility regulation. He was highly critical of lawmakers' 2016 decision to phase out the state's corporate franchise tax, arguing that money would be better spent on education, health care and other needed services.
"For the sick, the homebound, the undereducated, the needy, the poor in our state, life in our state can be very difficult. We have the lowest per-capita income and the highest poverty rate in the country."
Brown argued that lawmakers who agreed to phase out the $260 million-a-year tax were largely giving tax breaks to large corporations, many of which pay little or no state corporate income tax.
"Cutting taxes is easy for politicians, it's popular," Brown said. "The unpopular but sometimes smart action is to increases taxes when it's necessary, when it's sometimes justified by the facts."
Southern District Commissioner Sam Britton, a Laurel Republican, is considering seeking statewide office next year, possibly running for treasurer.