Capitol complex bill to get more work

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The possibility of a new district for infrastructure improvements around the Capitol and other state buildings in Jackson remains alive following Senate action Wednesday.

HB 1226 would create a Capitol complex between Jackson State University, through downtown Jackson and the state fairgrounds, almost to Jackson’s border with Rankin County.

Backers of the bill say it could generate as much as $20 million per year for infrastructure fixes in the capital city.

Under the bill, the state would place 12.5 percent of sales tax generated in the city of Jackson to a special fund for infrastructure maintenance and repairs that the Department of Finance and Administration would oversee.

Gil Ford Photography

Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson

“I’m hoping we can arrive at a solution that works,” said Jackson Sen. David Blount, whose district partly lies in the proposed complex. “The only way for (Jackson infrastructure) to be better is for there to be a productive partnership between the city and the state.”

Rep. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, said the bill would likely change significantly when it goes to negotiations later this month.

In the House, the bill was amended to require that all appointees from a governing commission to be from the city of Jackson and that the Jackson City Council, not the mayor, would appoint a member to the 11-member advisory board.

In the Senate version presented on Wednesday, the mayor would have three appointments. The tax diversion would remain the same, and 15 percent of money collected would go towards police and fire protection in the district.

Seven senators voted against the measure.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, spoke and voted against the bill, citing Jackson’s one-percent local option sales tax approved in 2009. Jackson citizens voted in 2014 to charge an additional 1 percent sales tax on certain items to raise cash for infrastructure, but the city has drawn criticism, including from legislators, about the slow pace of work using the sales tax money.

“As you can see, I still have a bee in my bonnet about the local option sales tax that was supposed to solve all the problems of the city of Jackson and here we are again,” Bryan said.

Several senators noted the city’s recent resurfacing of formerly pothole-riddled section of High Street near the Capitol.