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State Treasurer Warns Against Creating Additional Debt

By Paul Boger | Published 07 Mar 2014 04:25pm | comments
Mississippi lawmakers are just weeks away from finalizing a budget for fiscal year 2015. As MPB's Paul Boger reports state officials are cautioning the legislature against creating more debt than the state can handle.
 
Treasurer Lynn Fitch believes Mississippi's credit rating has remained stable despite a letter sent late last year degrading the state's bond borrowing rating.
 
"We currently, just in round numbers, owe about four billions dollars." said Fitch. "Which is very modest for most states. We've got a very good rating with a AA. We've been very good about paying our bills historically. We pay very timely, and we've been very good at knowing what the dollars are in that regard."
 
Fitch also warned lawmakers that the state's good credit rating shouldn't be used as an open invitation to borrow more money. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves agrees with Fitch. He says the legislature has a duty to taxpayers to keep the state's debt in check.
 
"We've got to recognize that our taxpayers are already overly burdened with taxes, with regulations and with debt at the federal level." said Reeves. "They don't need any more of that at the state level. That's something we are going to continue to work towards."
 
However, Senator Willie Simmons -- a member of the Legislative Budget Committee -- says borrowing money with bonds is a useful way to fund large scale projects like infrastructure repair.
 
"Breidges and the costs of maintaining highways are so costly that I doubt that we would ever have enough monies in the General Funds to appropriate a billion dollars toward taking care of our highways and bridges." said Simmons. "Bonding is something that you would probably want to mix with appropriations and other fees that you can put in place to pay for it."
 
This legislative session the Mississippi House of Representatives wants to borrow more than 400 million dollars; while the has Senate recommended borrowing less than 100 million.

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