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House panel advances bond bills, including 1 for shipyard


Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press



JACKSON -- A Mississippi House committee is moving forward with proposals to finance several projects, including improvements at a Gulf Coast shipyard and construction of road in a fast-growing Jackson suburb. 


It is unclear, however, whether the proposals will survive in the Senate, where leaders have been reluctant to increase the state's bond debt. 


Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula is one of Mississippi's largest private employers, with about 11,500 workers. The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday passed House Bill 321, which would authorize the state to issue $45 million in bonds. Chairman Jeff Smith, a Republican from Columbus, said it is part of a multi-year commitment the state is making to the shipyard that has military contracts. 


The committee also passed House Bill 1553, which would authorize up to $24 million in bonds to finance land acquisition and other costs before construction of part of Reunion Parkway. It would connect two existing roads on the eastern and western sides of Interstate 55 in Madison. A coalition of city and county leaders and economic development officials in Madison County say the parkway is needed to ease traffic congestion. The Ways and Means vice chairman, Republican Rep. Trey Lamar of Senatobia, noted that the parkway bond bill was filed by GOP House Speaker Philip Gunn. 


The Ways and Means on Tuesday also passed: 


-- House Bill 1556 , which would authorize up to $35 million in bonds for the state Department of Revenue's liquor distribution center in Madison County. Smith said the department could set a tax of up to $1 per case of liquor to pay off the bonds. 


-- House Bill 1543 , which would authorize up to $5 million in bonds for construction of the Pearl River Community College Workforce Development Center in the Hancock County town of Kiln. 


-- House Bill 1558 , which would authorize $2.8 million in bonds to finance construction of a new multipurpose building at the Greenville Higher Education Center and Mississippi Delta Community College in Greenville. 


Smith said more bond bills are expected to be discussed in his committee. The ones that passed Tuesday will go to the full House for more work. 


The state issues bonds to provide money for what are generally big-ticket items, and the bonds are paid off over a period of years. If legislators and the governor agree on projects, the bonds must also be approved separately by a state commission made up of the governor, state treasurer and attorney general. 





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