Mississippi lawmakers have filed dozens of bond-related bills for consideration during their current annual session, which runs through April 5.
Some bond bills, such as one that authorizes debt to build a stadium at Jackson State University, and others that authorize debt for museums, state facilities, and loans for hurricane-related repairs, have surfaced in prior legislative sessions.
Mississippi has $3.4 billion of outstanding bonds, mostly general obligation debt for capital and economic development programs.
In a recent briefing on the state’s fiscal outlook, Treasurer Tate Reeves urged lawmakers to only authorize new debt for programs that create jobs. That is the only kind of debt Gov. Haley Barbour said he would approve.
If $200 million of new debt is issued, the debt service would cost the fiscal 2010 budget approximately $30 million, according to Reeves.
“Prudent debt management over the last five years means we are no longer constrained by our constitutional debt limit or our capacity to issue new debt in the market,” he said. “The only constraint in issuing new debt is the Legislature’s willingness to pay back our creditors.”
Reeves said lawmakers should focus on spending funds on services to those most in need — the elderly and children — and not further burden taxpayers with any tax increases.
“The worst thing the Legislature could do in times of economic uncertainty is ask Mississippi families to send more of their hard-earned money to Jackson,” the treasurer said.
Given today’s economic climate, “our revenue outlook may get worse before it gets better,” he said.