SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves met with Coast lawmakers Wednesday morning to discuss a strategy for spending millions of BP settlement dollars on economic development projects in South Mississippi.
Some $750 million in BP money will flow through the state legislature over the next 15 years. Reeves says 100 percent of that money should be spent in South Mississippi, which bore the brunt of the oil spill damage.
"My personal view is that we ought to spend all of this money in South Mississippi, and that is what I am going to be working very hard to do. I'm also a realist. We cannot allow this to become an us vs. them argument," said Reeves.
Flanked by more than a dozen coast lawmakers, the lieutenant governor said a "united front" is needed to convince lawmakers from North Mississippi that those millions of BP dollars belong here in South Mississippi.
The key, he believes, is promoting economic development.
"Projects we can convince our friends and neighbors throughout our state that they are worthy projects that make sense for the long term prosperity of all of Mississippi," said Reeves.
The lieutenant governor announced he'll be hosting a trio of town hall meetings in the three coastal counties, seeking citizen input for spending BP dollars.
Before his news conference, Reeves met privately with the Coast legislative delegation to plan strategy.
"We're the ones that suffered the majority of the devastation from the BP oil spill. And anything that's good for the Coast, that drives the economic engine of the coast, helps drive the economic engine for the state as well," said Sen. Philip Moran of Hancock County.
Coast lawmakers agree the big challenge will be in convincing their colleagues in Jackson.
"Selling it to them in the northern part of the state. The damage was done here, and we've got to show them why the need is here and why we still are suffering today from the spill," said Rep. Richard Bennett of Long Beach.
Reeves says he's looking for public input on how those dollars should be spent here in South Mississippi.
The town hall meetings in Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson counties will take place over the next three months.