State Politics

Bill to keep BP money on Coast clears Senate committee

Oil the size of a football sits on the beach in Waveland. Oil continued to wash ashore in Harrison and Hancock counties causing some beaches to be closed in 2010.
Oil the size of a football sits on the beach in Waveland. Oil continued to wash ashore in Harrison and Hancock counties causing some beaches to be closed in 2010. ttisbell@sunherald.com File

The state Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would create a special fund to keep BP economic damages money separate from general tax dollars, the first step in keeping the money on the Coast, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said.

Senate Bill 2634 by Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, would create the Gulf Coast New Restoration Reserve Fund. The bill was co-authored by Sens. Tommy Gollott, R-Biloxi; Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport; Mike Seymour, R-Vancleave; and Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula.

“I appreciate Sen. Wiggins for introducing this legislation as it is a positive step toward ensuring the vast majority of the settlement is spent in the three coastal counties,” Reeves said. “Every time I visited the Coast last year, I heard from residents and community leaders about the impact the BP disaster had, and in some cases continues to have, on the Gulf Coast. It is important that we spend these dollars on projects that will boost the economy of South Mississippi, and therefore the entire state.”

Coast lawmakers have been pushing to have at least 80 percent of the settlement, which totals $750 million, spent on the Coast. The state has spent more than $40 million of the initial $150 installment, most of it on the Coast. The rest will be paid over the next 16 years in annual installments.

Rep. Scott DeLano, another member of the Coast delegation, has been working to have the money placed in a fund that would be spent on the Coast and would keep the incoming money out of the appropriations process in coming years.

“It’s a good start in a long process,” he said.

DeLano said he was glad the bill was coming out of the Senate because Reeves, the leader of the Senate, had been a strong backer of the Coast’s cause.

The bill heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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