Justin Minyard

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Cooper Tire Part of $230 Million Lawmakers Approve

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers are moving ahead with plans to borrow almost $230 million.

House and Senate members passed two bills Monday authorizing the state to sell new bonds. House Bill 787 and Senate Bill 2975 now go to Gov. Phil Bryant for his consideration.

Plans call for $92.8 million for capital projects at the state’s eight public universities, including $30.5 million to continue building a new medical school building at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Also included is $23 million for projects at the state’s 15 community colleges.

One bill calls for giving Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. up to $20 million over three years. Officials hope the aid, plus $20 million in local property tax breaks, will entice Ohio-based Cooper to spend $140 million at its 1,600-employee Tupelo plant to modernize.

The North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority would be loaned $30 million to buy a rail line from Southaven to Canton that the current owner wants to rip up and sell for scrap.

The state would contribute $14 million for history and civil rights museums the state is building in Jackson; $8 million to build a new worker manufacturing training center at East Mississippi Community College in Mayhew; $3 million for a new auditorium at Oak Grove High School in Lamar County; and $2.5 million for a Tammy Wynette museum in the Itawamba County town of Tremont.

Some senators objected to borrowing money for items such as $100,000 to help the town of Bolton repair municipal buildings.

“Are we setting a precedent that when a city can’t pay for their own building, they come to the state and we bail them out?” asked Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said that precedent had been set long ago.

Sen. Melanie Sojourner, R-Natchez, tried unsuccessfully to have other parts of the bill that didn’t directly deal with borrowing set aside as violating legislative rules. They included a provision that would extend historic tax credits. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves rejected that effort.