Fight for BP money continues at the Capitol

Fight for BP money continues at the Capitol
Signatures of the leaders who support allocating BP's relief money to the Coast. (Photo Source: WLOX)
Signatures of the leaders who support allocating BP's relief money to the Coast. (Photo Source: WLOX)
(Photo Source: WLOX)
(Photo Source: WLOX)

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - More than 100 coast business and community leaders are heading back home after an intense day of lobbying state lawmakers.

The message they brought to Jackson was simple: all the money from BP to pay for oil spill damages should be spent on the Coast.

The floor of the capitol rotunda was packed with the movers and shakers from the coast.

There are 650 million reasons they were here. That number reflects the amount of money BP will pay the state for the next 15 years to repair damage from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf.

Ashley Edwards is with the Gulf Coast Business Council.

"We've got a number of business leaders here in the capitol today talking with legislators, talking to statewide leaders about the fact that ultimately, the coast is where the damage occurred and we believe the coast is where the money should ultimately go," Edwards explained.

Those who made the trip north can agree, including the CEO of the Hancock County port and harbor commission, Bill Cork.

"You know the the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a unique location and we've got unique needs in the state. So I think it's important for the coast to show up and show our solidarity as the legislature begins its work," he said.

As they work, optimism this time around is higher, according to Edwards.

He noted, "Last year was very disappointing. I think that this year is a totally new effort. We definitely see that lawmakers are hearing us. We think there's been some great progress even in the last few days."

That progress may not be enough to ensure 100 percent of the money is spent on the coast.

Brice Wiggins is a state senator from Pascagoula. "There's certainly a level that we will not accept, but that can be a moving target. But you're right, 80-20 is what's been floated around at the low end, Wiggins said.

There is an ally in Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.

"We're going to work very hard in the senate to send them a bill that that spends 100 percent of the money on the coast. Then it will be in the hands of the legislators in the house of representatives," said Reeves.

No matter how the negotiations come out over the BP money, those from the coast say their effort has made history.

Tish Williams is the director of the Hancock County chamber of commerce.

Williams stated, "We've done it by bringing all three coastal counties together, to join together to call for one legislative solution. This is the way is should be because we are one coast."

Insiders say any bill concerning the BP money will probably originate in the house before moving on for consideration in the senate.

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