Mississippi owes more than $5.3 billion in bond debt.
The Legislature this past session borrowed $450 million that funded capital improvements at the state’s junior colleges and universities, according to nonpartisan accounting group Truth in Accounting and Mississippi’s annual comprehensive annual financial report.
Wasteful projects are found around the state, including several music museums, an aquarium and one of the nation’s biggest shipyards.
So, what are Mississippi taxpayers getting?
The Gulfport aquarium will get its $24.5 million in seed money from two bills — the primary bond bill and House Bill 1630, which would use bonds repaid with tax revenue from casinos designated for infrastructure improvements to, primarily, repair the state’s deficient bridges. Gulfport mayor Billy Hewes told the Sun Herald he’ll ask Gov. Phil Bryant for money from the state’s settlement with BP for the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. According to a marketing study commissioned by the city, the aquarium would need about 478,000 visitors per year to realize about $119 million in revenue by 2019. That exceeds six other Mississippi Gulf Coast attractions by a combined 60 percent, according to the Sun Herald.
Huntingdon Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula is getting $20 million from state taxpayers. The shipyard churns out U.S. Navy destroyers, amphibious warfare ships and the U.S. Coast Guard’s newest class of large cutters — the National Security Cutter — and is the state’s largest employer with 11,000 jobs. Ingalls spokesman Bill Glenn said the money, which will be matched by $40 million from the shipyard, is intended for upgrades that allow Ingalls to remain “at the forefront of the military shipbuilding industry.”
Ingalls in March was awarded a more than $499 million contract to build the eighth National Security Cutter for the Coast Guard and a more than $604 million contract to build an Arleigh Burke class destroyer for the U.S. Navy.