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Lawmakers back in session for bond bill

An area legislator says he will vote for an expensive bondingbill to help attract and keep jobs, but believes a special sessionbeginning today is unnecessary.

Legislators are being asked to consider $103.7 million in bondbills in the special session, the third this year, called by Gov.Haley Barbour. Lawmakers are scheduled to go back into regularsession in January.

“I think it could have waited until January, but the governorhas the authority to call a special session so I feel we shouldtend to business. I think it would be a slap to the taxpayers notto,” said District 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett, referring to rumblingsfrom some House members that they will meet only to adjourn withoutconsidering the bill.

Barnett, who arrived early at the Capitol in Jackson Monday,said he believes there are enough representatives willing toconsider the bill to block the move to adjourn. He said he hopesthe debate on the bill can be resolved in one day.

A special session costs $50,363 for the first day and $34,942for each subsequent day that week. The first-day costs includeround-trip travel expenses for the 174 lawmakers.

Barnett expressed concern over the size of the state’s growingbond indebtedness, calling it “awful large.” However, he said heintends to support the current legislation.

“I will vote for it because it does bring in jobs,” he said.

The state already has $3.7 billion in bond debt with an annualpayment of $335 million.

According to Barbour, the special session is necessary becausethe state needs to approve bonds for Northrop Grumman Ship Systemsbefore the company’s board meets next week. The state has pledgedfinancial support to help the Gulf Coast ship builder, the state’slargest employer, expand its operations.

In 2003, the state approved a three-year, $48 million bondpackage for Northrop Grumman if the company spent $96 million toexpand its operations. The company expected a second payment thisyear, but the 2004 Legislature adjourned without approving bondbills.

Barbour’s bond package also include $4.2 million to recruit aNASA Shared Services Center to Hancock County, $10 million forTimtek in east Mississippi, $8 million in improved facilities atBaxter Healthcare Corporation in Cleveland, $3 million forexpansion of Viking Range Corp. facilities in Greenwood, and$500,000 for technology improvements at Pharmapak in KemperCounty.

District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said Friday she had not hadtime to review the bond bill in depth and intended to study itduring the weekend. She hesitated to make any comment until she hadreviewed the bond package.

However, a new armory proposed for the Army National Guard unitbased in Monticello does not appear to be included in the bondpackage, she said.

“The Monticello Armory is not mentioned in it, and to me thatmeans it’s not in there,” she said.

The armory had been included in the bond package that was beforelegislators during the last regular session. At the time,legislators said it appeared to be a sure thing that was only heldup by other items in the bond bill.

Hyde-Smith said she had every intention of seeing it added tothe new bond bill.