Gov. Tate Reeves’ reasons for vetoing a bill that would have helped restore Jackson’s water bond rating don’t hold water.
The governor recently announced on social media that he had rejected a bill that would have given Jackson several new tools to address its ongoing water crisis.
Northsiders are all too aware of this crisis. For years, many have been receiving water bills that are too high, while others have not received regular statements at all.
SB 2856 would have allowed Jackson the flexibility to help customers who could not pay, while at the same time would have provided the city with a new accounting measure to ensure uncollected debt would no longer hurt its credit rating.
This rating is used by the city to issue bonds for water and sewer infrastructure work. The better the credit rating, the better the terms of the bonds being issued.
Despite its benefits, Reeves vetoed the measure because it “only applies to the city of Jackson.”
The governor went on to say that the bill would have allowed "politicians to say that individuals are not responsible for paying their water bill," and that politicians would have used the measure as a way to give away free water as political gifts.
We question whether Reeves used this same logic when he recently signed HB 1425 into law. That measure extended the repealer clause on the city of Fulton’s motel and hotel tax.
Further, Reeves was expected to sign another measure, HB 1606, into law by July 7. That bill would authorize a restaurant tax in the city of Water Valley to promote tourism, parks and recreation.
Those bills are city-specific, as are the numerous other tourism tax bills he allowed through the Senate during his time as lieutenant governor.
Reeves, who lauded lower taxes last year on the campaign trail, apparently has no problem signing measures into law that extend or implement new taxes. So much for campaign trail rhetoric.
Meanwhile, a bill that would have given Jackson residents breathing room in dealing with extremely high water bills failed to see the light of day.
The governor’s second argument, that politicians would use the measure to forgive bills to curry political favor, is also faulty. Under the state constitution, municipalities may not forgive outstanding water debt.
SB 2856, according its author, Sen. John Horhn, would not have forgiven the debt. Rather, it would have given Jackson more tools to help residents address the higher bills related to the Siemens contract.
The Lumumba administration had not yet determined how it would have implemented the bill, but payment plans would likely have been among tools used.
As for helping the city’s credit rating, lower interest rates on bonds would have saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest rates over time.
The truth is, Reeves had a prime opportunity to practice what he preached on the campaign trail. Instead, he vetoed a bill that would have helped all of Jackson’s rate payers, whether directly through water bill assistance or through lower taxes, thanks to improved water bond credit ratings.