Senate committee agrees BP money should be sent to Coast

Senate committee agrees BP money should be sent to Coast

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The Senate Appropriations Committee repeated its message that BP settlement dollars should be held in a separate account for coastal projects Tuesday.

The committee amended House Bill 1185, placing the Senate's plan in the bill.

Eleven districts throughout the state will receive funds from the $700 million BP oil settlement, which will be sent to Mississippi over the next several years. That's according to new legislation that was passed late Wednesday by the state House of Representatives.

"The vast majority of the damage occurred on the Coast, and I believe those counties should receive the vast majority of the funds," Lt. Gov. Reeves said. "By separating these funds from general tax dollars, we can focus their use on projects that encourage long-term economic growth in South Mississippi, which benefits our entire state."

House Bill 1512 - which was co-authored by most members of the Gulf Coast House delegation - passed with little debate. It creates 11 districts statewide where the funds can be spent, including a standalone district for Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties.

Coast business leaders and lawmakers say since the vast majority of damage from the spill occurred on the Coast, then the vast majority of the money should be spent here to repair the economy.

A recent report compiled by the Gulf Coast Business Council details how the Coast's economy has never recovered from Katrina and the spill. In fact, the Coast falls behind much of the state in areas such as job creation and pay increases.

However, business leaders say the Coast does have one thing in its favor, and that's favor from public officials. Both Governor Phil Bryant and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves have gone on record saying the money should be spent here.

With the passage of both bills in the House of Representatives, attention now shifts back to the Mississippi Senate to determine how that chamber will work to reconcile the two House bills with Senate Bill 2176, passed earlier during the legislative session. The House and Senate bills differ greatly on how each handles the BP Economic Damage Settlement funds.

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