GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Over the next 17 years, $750 million in BP settlement money will be coming to Mississippi. Thursday night, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves held the first of three town hall meetings to get ideas on how to spend it.
The money is part of a state settlement reached to offset economic losses from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It has nothing to do with money received to make ecological repairs or separate litigation by individual cities along the Coast. So it could be a big showdown in the Legislature as the Coast battles the rest of the state for its share. But the coast has Reeves on its side.
"I'm in a position where if I say the number 50, or I say the number 60, or I say the number 70, or I say the number 80, or I say the number 90, well that becomes the top end of where negotiations begin," Reeves told the 100-plus crowd at the Lyman Community Center. "And so, my number tonight is 100 percent of the money."
Ruthie Thaggart-White of Gulfport agreed.
"I feel like all the money should stay here on the Coast," she said. "Because the people on the Coast were affected – not the people in northern Mississippi."
Reeves is holding these town hall meetings to get a lot of people involved and get a lot of suggestions on how to spend the money. The state received a $150 million deposit last year, and the payments will be about $40 million a year from 2019 through 2033.
"It should be for infrastructure," said John Sullivan of Gulfport. "So, I would like to see us have a north-south port road to 90 to 10. And it wouldn't hurt to have and east-west road somewhere."
Patrick White of Gulfport added, "We're lacking in park and recreation for kids and I just think it needs to stay here on the Coast."
Former Biloxi Mayor Gerald Blessey is proposed the Mississippi Gulf Coast Economic Restoration Trust Fund to promote regional economic development fueled from 80 percent of the BP settlement.
"The idea here would be to reinvest in the economic engine that got damaged that caused the loss to begin with," he said. "That's the coast economy in all of its forms."
Future town hall meetings will be at Diamondhead City Hall at 11 a.m. Oct. 20; and at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gautier at 2 p.m. Nov. 20.
If you miss the meetings, you can email your ideas to BPSettlement@senate.ms.gov