Funding to solve Jackson’s water crisis delayed as governor stands up

Mr. Jackson. – Years before the Jackson folks these days Leave without running water For days, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves claimed it helped block funds to finance repairs to the capital’s water system.

Reeves, a Republican, blames Jackson’s water crisis on mismanagement at the city level. The city’s latest water trouble isn’t the first, it stems from rotting infrastructure beyond a single water plant.of EPA The city said 300 boiling water notices had been issued in the past two years.

As Reeves climbed the Mississippi political ladder, he cited his opposition to financially supporting the capital as evidence of his fiscal conservatism. The problem with the system is an example of Jackson’s status as a political punching bag for Republican officials who control Congress and state bond boards.

“We’re operating under the golden rule here,” said Democratic Senator John Horne of Jackson. “And the golden rule is, who has the money, makes the rules.”

In Jackson, 80% of residents are black and 25% live in poverty. Repeated failure Drinking water from the tap, brushing your teeth, and washing dishes without boiling the water is not safe. At a press conference in September, Reeves said water service was restored to most of the city only after the state “intervened” to provide emergency repairs. He also said he did not anticipate needing to approve further debt to

For some residents of Jackson, fears of another weather water cut are looming large. “Winter is coming,” said local activist Brooke Floyd. “He says it’s fixed. But it hasn’t.”

A winter storm in 2010 also cut off water supply in parts of the city. By June 2011, Reeves was in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. As the Tea Party moved government spending to the center of political debate, his opponents accused him of agreeing to increase bond debt.

With Election Day just weeks away, former state treasurer Reeves said: Appeared on a conservative talk radio show To further his track record as a stern “watchdog” against debt-hungry state legislators. Host Paul Gallo wanted to know why Reeves voted to approve most bond projects as a member of the state bond board. His voting record didn’t tell the whole story, Reeves said. said. Take, for example, the millions of bonds the city requested to repair its crumbling water and sewage infrastructure.

“It hasn’t gotten to the bond committee, so I’ve never voted against it. We’re talking to the City of Jackson,” Reeves said. “If we’re not comfortable, we never bring it up to vote.”

The bond board has decided not to consider issuing bonds for Jackson’s water projects approved by Congress, Reeves said.

“Let’s say there’s economic development in a town that doesn’t have a lot of political power,” Gallo replied.

“It’s the same thing as a negative vote,” Reeves said.

Most years, Congress approves projects in one king-size measure, known in legislative parlance as the “big bond bill.” A bond board, consisting of the Governor, Attorney General, and State Treasurer, then votes on whether to issue bonds.

The Commission issues most of the bonds brought to the ballot. In 2011, Reeves’ first opponents said Reeves had voted to approve excessive debt during his two terms as state treasurer. But some bonds, such as those proposed for Jackson’s water and sewerage improvements, have not been put to the ballot or have been delayed.

Responding to questions at a press conference in September, Reeves said his recollection of what happened in 2010 was that the city did not prepare the paperwork necessary to receive a council-approved water bond. That’s what happened. Document In 2010, city leaders prepared a proposal asking the state for $13.5 million in bonds to upgrade the downtown water system, according to what was obtained by the Associated Press. Congress then approved a proposal for a $6 million small bond.

After congressional approval, however, Reeves and Republican Gov. Haley Barber initially failed to include the city’s water utility in state bonds issued in the fall of 2010.

Congress said former Mississippi Department of Finance spokeswoman Kim Wiggins added requirements to apply for bonds. jackson free press It was “exclusive” for Jackson at the time. For the application to be approved, the city will have to answer a number of questions about how the funds will be used, Reeves said.

Barbour and Reeves voted relentlessly to approve the bond after city officials made promises that included funding the project through low-interest loans, rather than the interest-free loans outlined in the law.

The governor’s office told The Associated Press that, as state treasurer, Reeves eventually voted to approve the bond. declined to be on the agenda.

“We make decisions before they are on the agenda so there is no actual vote,” Reeves said.

Bond bills proposed by Jackson-area legislators often fail to pass Congress before the Bond Board gets involved.

Congress in 2022, Specification He died on commission after he would have approved a $4 million bond to improve Jackson’s water and sewer systems. another The money would have been used to build another water system for Jackson State University. had to bring in a temporary toilet There was a portable shower in August as discolored water ran down the dorm taps.

At another press conference in September, Reeves said the state had given Jackson $200 million over the past few years to address water problems. WLBT-TV Include revenue from measures such as a 1% sales tax paid only by those who shop in Jackson.

“That’s not money coming from Mississippi,” said Rep. Earl Banks of Jackson. “It’s money from the citizens of Jackson and people doing business in the city of Jackson.”

With a declining population eroding Jackson’s tax base, voters overwhelmingly approved a 1% local sales tax on infrastructure repairs in 2014.jackson city council Asked Seek legislative approval for another election to double local taxes to $1.2.bill to raise consumption tax Died in Congress 2021.

Reeves said Jackson needs to fix the problem billing system problem Before “asking other people to make more money”.

Efforts to attract private investment by keeping taxes low have long been central to Reeves’ economic thinking.

Government does not create jobs. It simply “creates an environment that encourages the private sector to invest capital,” Reeves said in his 2011 interview with Gallo. “And the infrastructure around it is a government function.”

Reeves said government has a role to play in building the infrastructure to facilitate development. Those economic principles do not apply to Jackson, some officials said.

“You see, you can bury your head in the sand and say, ‘Jackson’s problem is not our problem,'” Horn said. If it can’t be polished or crap, I’ll drop Mississippi from the list.”


Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Reports for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover hidden issues. Follow him on Twitter. twitter.com/mikergoldberg.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/09/27/jacksons-water-system-at-the-mercy-of-spending-rhetoric/ Funding to solve Jackson’s water crisis delayed as governor stands up

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