Association leaders representing 299 cities and 82 counties in Mississippi are calling on lawmakers — who are at an impasse on tax cuts — to move forward with spending billions in federal pandemic stimulus funds that could help local governments with historic infrastructure projects.
“Cities and counties across this state are ready and willing to begin turning the dirt and advancing vital infrastructure projects through the use of matching grants (American Rescue Plan Act),” the mayor wrote. of Greenville, Errick Simmons, and Choctaw County Supervisor Chris McIntire in a letter. to lawmakers on Monday. Simmons and McIntire are presidents of the Mississippi Municipal League and the Mississippi Association of Supervisors, respectively.
“However, we cannot do this without legislative approval,” the two wrote. “We are concerned that the federal government may begin to ‘claw back’ some of the funds that have not been committed or spent… Time is running out for these ARPA funds. We are concerned that if the Legislature waits until 2023 to process ARPA funds, it could potentially compromise the use of some of the funds in Mississippi.
The two said local governments could run out of time to plan, bid and complete projects by December 31, 2026, the deadline to spend the money, especially given supply chain and environmental issues. inflation.
Mississippi cities and counties receive a total of $900 million from ARPA. The state is receiving $1.8 billion, and the Senate and House have proposed that the state match local government infrastructure spending to allow for more meaningful improvements. Many cities and counties have crumbling water, sewer, road and other infrastructure, and ARPA funds provide what Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann called a “transformational and generational” opportunity. .
But Hosemann and his Senate leadership have been at odds with House Speaker Philip Gunn and his leadership on the tax cuts. Gunn has pushed for legislation to be passed this year to eliminate the state’s personal income tax, which accounts for about a third of the state’s general fund revenue. The Senate proposed a more modest tax cut that would still be one of the largest ever passed by the state.
Gunn and other House leaders have threatened to suspend spending on ARPA and other laws if the Senate does not vote on the income tax elimination plan. Gov. Tate Reeves, who also supports the elimination of the income tax, hailed Gunn’s threat to delay ARPA spending as “an impressive commitment and a smart move. Taxpayers should be the first to benefit when we have this much money.
Mississippi is already behind on spending ARPA money. It’s one of only four states, districts or territories not to have allocated substantial ARPA money to date, along with Idaho, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington, DC, according to the data. collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Hosemann, who has traveled the state to meet with local government leaders and held hearings in the summer and fall of 2021 to plan ARPA spending, urged Gunn and the House to move on. ‘before.
In an op-ed he wrote over the weekend, Hosemann said: ‘Let me be very clear: do not appropriate the $1.8 billion one-time funds from US federal law on the bailout for infrastructure and stimulus projects is not a rational option for our state.
“Yet last week, members of the state House of Representatives made public comments about the allocation of these one-time dollars to the passage of unrelated legislation.
“…Meanwhile, the citizens and communities who elected us are in limbo, waiting for this critical funding to increase the number of critical care beds available in hospitals, expand broadband service to rural areas , support child protection services and stimulate our economy through workforce development and tourism.
“The Senate kicked off in January, having already met with stakeholders, held public hearings and developed an initial ARPA plan before the start of the session. It’s because the clock is ticking. Mississippi doesn’t have time to wait.