AP News

Miss. in good shape for debt level, treasury says


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi House and Senate will try to agree on a package of long-term borrowing next year, after failing to authorize one this past spring, a top lawmaker said Thursday.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said leaders want to cover the state's needs without creating too much bond debt. The state issues bonds as long-term financing for economic development projects or for items such as government buildings.

"We'd love to have a reasonable bond bill," Fillingane said.

During a briefing Thursday at the Capitol, Deputy State Treasurer Laura Jackson told Finance Committee members that Mississippi has slightly over $4 billion in bond debt. The constitutional debt limit is $12.4 billion, so she said the state is in good shape.

Jackson also said Mississippi has long paid its bond debts on time, even after Hurricane Katrina.

During the 2012 legislative session, House leaders sought authorization for a bond package of $250 million or more. Senate leaders sought less than half of that, with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves saying he didn't want to increase the state's debt. The four-month session ended without an agreement.

Since then, county supervisors, university leaders and others have said the state needs a bond package in 2013 to take care of roads, bridges, building repairs and other projects.

Jackson said the state will pay off about $242.4 million of its bond debt this year. Fillingane said Senate leaders want to limit new debt to an amount equal or less than what the state will pay off in any given year.

Freddie "Flip" Phillips, deputy executive director of the state Department of Finance and Administration, told lawmakers that Mississippi is attractive for bond buyers.

"Our debt is real good," Phillips said. "People want these bonds."


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