$230 million Miss. borrowing plan includes buying railroad, aiding Tupelo’s Cooper Tire Plant

Mississippi lawmakers would borrow $30 million to buy a railroad and give the first $8 million of a three-year pledge to Tupelo’s Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. plant under a plan to borrow about $230 million for numerous projects that faced further revisions Sunday by the House and Senate.

Saturday was the deadline for House and Senate lawmakers to agree on new bonds, but top lawmakers on Sunday sent House Bill 787 and Senate Bill 2975 back to a joint committee to rewrite them, meaning exact numbers for projects could change, as could other provisions of the legislation.

Once the bills are rewritten, the full House and Senate must still pass them and send them to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.

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. Those amounts have not been in much dispute, as lawmakers agreed in 2013 to give certain amounts to the universities and colleges over three years to give them greater predictability in starting certain projects.

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 company hasn’t decided where it expects to spend the money and hasn’t pledged to increase jobs.

“Obviously Cooper Tire has been a longtime corporate partner in Tupelo,” Lt. Gov Tate Reeves, a Republican, said Saturday.

The Republic
3/30/14