Capitol Complex finally clears Legislature

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The House and Senate signed off Wednesday on creating a Capitol Complex district in Jackson, after several failed attempts in the past several years.

Similar to last year, negotiations on House Bill 1226 went down to the last wire and was one of the last pieces of legislation the Legislature considered.

Over the weekend, Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said the House and Senate were working out the boundaries of the proposed district. The Senate did not have have set boundaries, but the plan that passed includes an area north of Jackson State University as well as the Fondren business district.

“If you look at the bipartisanship (involved), I think it was one of the highlights of the session,” Horhn said.

Negotiators on the both sides agreed to make several changes, including lowering the amount of sales tax that will be diverted to pay for infrastructure upgrades and removing an oversight commission that some Jacksonians objected to.

Gil Ford Photography

House Rep. Bill Denny, R-Jackson

Beginning in July 2018, 2 percent of the city of Jackson’s sales tax will be diverted into a fund for maintaining infrastructure. That amount would increase in subsequent years, capping at 6 percent.

Rep. Bill Denny, R-Jackson, estimated that the program could generate as much as $11 million for when it reaches the 6 percent max.

An earlier version said 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. It also would have set aside 15 percent of the money collected for use for police and fire protection. The final version earmarks 10 percent for the police and fire departments.

Denny said the new version expands the area covered in the complex to include an area north of Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The Department of Finance and Administration would oversee projects in the district, which the city of Jackson would help choose, Horhn said.

In addition, the Capitol Police would also have the authority to patrol and make arrests in the district.

“This can only help the city I love,” said Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, who chairs the Appropriations Committee and grew up in Jackson.

The Senate later agreed with the House, voting 42-1.

Gil Ford Photography

Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson

“All of us, whether we live in Jackson or other areas, want to have a capital city that we can be proud of,” said Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, and sponsor of the legislation.

“If you have an economic development project in your district, and those folks have to come see the governor or someone downtown, it’s important to make a good impression,” Blount said. “We believe this is a good proposal for the state of Mississippi.”

Contributing: Adam Ganucheau