JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A bill which could improve municipalities’ credit ratings is going to Governor Tate Reeves for final approval.
Under House Bill 359, cities would have the ability to put uncollectible water and sewer debt into a separate category on their balance sheets. This could, in turn, help improve their credit ratings.
The measure would also allow cities to offer payment plans in certain cases of high balances and allow them to stop collections on debts in others, depending on the customer’s circumstances.
“The House version only applied to Jackson, [but] we amended it to put my language in it to make it statewide,” said Sen. John Horhn.
Horhn introduced a similar measure in 2020, specifically for the city of Jackson. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously but was vetoed by Gov. Reeves.
The senator then reintroduced a modified version of that legislation in 2021 after speaking with the governor’s staff.
This bill also failed to make it out of a Senate committee, however, a similar measure, House Bill 359 passed the House and was transmitted to the Senate, where it was also passed Wednesday.
“If you’re dealing with someone at or below 200 percent of the poverty level, you’ll be able to set up an extended payment plan with them, determined on that person’s economics, and set aside a portion of the debt as uncollectible,” Horhn explained.
“It does not forgive the debt, but puts it in a separate category so it won’t negatively impact a city’s bond rating,” he continued. “Cities will be better able to issue bonds and initiate debt if their bond ratings improve.”