The Coast’s economy lags behind other regions of the state, which underscores the need for legislators to keep BP settlement money on the Coast, an economic leader said Thursday.
“The Gulf Coast has not realized the same economic momentum as other regions — including the overall state of Mississippi — since 2010,” Gulf Coast Business Council President Ashley Edwards said.
Edwards, who spoke Thursday at the University of Southern Mississippi’s annual Economic Outlook Forum at the Gulf Park campus, said the Coast’s recovery overall has been stunted in a number of categories after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession of 2008 and the 2010 BP oil spill.
“The perception has often been that the Coast region, with its maritime economy, does better than the rest of the state,” he said. “That’s not necessarily true.”
According to annual reports from the Mississippi Department of Revenue that go back to 2010, Edwards noted:
▪ Although the state has seen an increase of 47,700 jobs overall, the Coast has seen a reduction of 3,490 manufacturing and non-manufacturing jobs.
▪ Though taxable income has increased by 6 percent across the state, it has decreased by 2 percent along the Coast.
▪ Though overall city sales-tax revenue increased by 17.4 percent across the state, it was only 13.6 percent for the Coast.
▪ Ad valorum property taxes and overall assessments on the Coast have fallen significantly behind the rest of the state.
▪ The gap between median household income compared with the U.S. average continues to widen.
Edwards said the numbers prove BP-settlement money should be kept in Coast hands to help the region recoup its losses.
He told the audience he’s concerned legislators might use some of the money to plug state budget shortfalls.
Coast legislators, however, have repeatedly said they are united in their efforts to keep as much settlement money as possible on the Coast.
Also Thursday, Gov. Phil Bryant announced another round of budget cuts to most state agencies, the fourth round of cuts for many agencies within two years. More cuts are in the works as lawmakers set the coming year’s budget, The Clarion-Ledger reported.