Tate Reeves is a pretty boring Republican.
He’s not one of those people shouting about immigration or abortion or gun control. He’s on the right side on all of those issues, but he seems most passionate about the stuff that won’t get much ink or air time. One of those issues has been bonded indebtedness. That even makes political hacks like me yawn.
For decades, Mississippi has had “a bond bill”. It was just a generally accepted practice in the Capitol Dome and it tended to grow over time. However, with the change in control of the legislature in 2011, there was a new crew in charge that didn’t have the institutional knowledge that the old lions like Jack Gordon had. The lack of knowledge created a leadership vacuum of sorts.
Last year, while the ink was spilling about Republicans not getting a charter bill through, the big power fight barely got a mention. The fact that House and Senate leaders couldn’t come to terms on a bond bill. Tate Reeves and his top lieutenant Terry Brown were looking for a bond bill in the $100-150 million range. House leaders looked for something closer to $300 million. At odds was not so much the amount, but what was funded with it.
It was a tough call, but Reeves was willing to walk away from the session without a bond bill in 2012. He paid a short term political price as most in the Capitol Dome and even more throughout state government couldn’t believe that there was no bond bill. However, the world didn’t come to an end. Life moved on, everything worked out, and now here we are a year later ready to take another crack at it.
Recently, at the Stennis Press Lunch, he talked about the fact that many things historically funded with bond bills shouldn’t have been. Things that have useful lives of 5-15 years shouldn’t be funded with 20+ year debt (bridges, roofs on government buildings, software). Reeves’ argument was not that those things shouldn’t get funded. His argument was that those things should be funded through the appropriations process and not with bond “funny money” that the state pays interest on long after the useful life of the asset has elapsed.
This past Friday, it seems like his message was received. House Bill 22 was passed. From the AP story:
House Bill 22, which passed 118-0, includes $20 million for county bridge replacement; $26 million to replace roofs; $3 million for rural fire trucks; and $22 million for new state accounting software.
Again, this is unquestionably a win for Reeves and a delivery on a key campaign promise. What’s left of the Capitol Press corps will not likely give these events in context much ink, but it’s relevant and I think volumes about how the leadership vacuum has been filled.