Lawmaker worries about tideland funds

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A handful of long time coast lawmakers were defeated in last week's general election. One Coast legislator fears that the loss of seniority could hurt South Mississippi.

Representative Elect David Baria says millions of dollars in tideland funds could end up in the general fund rather then be sent to the coast.

The Secretary of State's office collects money from tideland leases with coast casinos. A portion of that money comes back to the coast in tideland funds to build piers, marinas and other public projects.

Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway has a long list of tidelands projects. Some are completed, while others are still under construction. Holloway says tideland money is very important to his city and the entire Gulf Coast.

"The piers that we have, the fishing docks and marinas. All that was done, not all with tideland funds, but a lot of tideland money is used in the funding," Holloway said.

Newly elected State Representative David Baria raised a red flag following the general election. He fears with many longtime coast legislators being defeated, South Mississippi will lose seniority. And that lack of clout will open the door for Jackson to reroute tideland funds.

"We get revenue on the coast from gaming revenue coming back as tideland funds. We use it for boat ramps, piers and other public access projects. There is talk that the new GOP administration wants to put that money into the general fund," said Baria.

"This is the first I've heard of this," Mayor Holloway said. "It does not surprise me. They like to get that money from the coast and keep it."

In 2010, more than $10 million in tideland money came back to the coast.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told WLOX News, "The allocation of tideland funds is purely a determination of the Legislature. However, I believe the money is raised on the coast and should stay on the coast."

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