Auditor, MDA in bit of turf war

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said last week that he had recovered $48,933 as part of the beef plant investigation going on for a decade.

That brings to more than $617,000 the total amount of money the state has recovered after the project imploded, going back to when Gov. Phil Bryant was auditor.

48 grand isn’t a lot of money compared with the overall state budget or the massive failure of Mississippi Beef Processors. The amount isn’t the point.

Pickering made sure to mention that the beef plant — for which the state guaranteed a $55 million loan it eventually had to pay — was not subject to any sort of oversight from the auditor’s office.

House Bill 1318 would change that. This is the second session Pickering has pushed legislation that would grant him automatic oversight over every economic development project that receives public assistance.

Currently, the auditor’s office has built-in authority to check on projects assisted under the Mississippi Major Economic Impact Act. That program is for expensive mega-deals — think Toyota and Yokohama.

That authority does not extend to smaller programs like the Advantage Jobs Act and a handful of others. The Mississippi Development Authority has oversight over those and can request the auditor’s office to chip in.

Pickering has said several times this session and last that the request is rarely made.

HB 1318 cleared the Senate Tuesday and is on its way to Bryant.

Clarion Ledger
3/11/14