Meridian Star

February 2, 2014

Your View

Allow citizens to vote on capital improvements


The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Dear Editor:

    The East Central Mississippi Mayors Association, established in 2006,  is a nonpartisan organization made up of participating mayors in east central Mississippi. The association endeavors to coordinate planning activities so far as municipal governments are involved by working together for a common good, to serve as an interchange of ideas and information by governments within the organization on common problems, and to further the relationships of municipal governments in the designated counties.

    A major issue for the cities and towns in our association is the need to improve our aging water, sewer, and street infrastructure. On Jan. 14, 2014, the citizens of the City of Jackson voted overwhelmingly to pay an additional 1-cent sales tax to help the City of Jackson fund their infrastructure needs.  

    For several years, the municipalities have been asking the Legislature to allow all cities and towns in Mississippi to have this same option. We feel our local citizens should have the right to tax themselves if they support a capital improvement project proposed in a referendum. Again and again, the Legislature has denied us this right.

    The 2014 Citizens for Economic Development Act, or CEDA, would give citizens the right to vote on whether or not to levy a sales tax of up to 1 percent to fund critically needed capital improvements in their communities.  

    Our state is facing a budget crisis. Every legislator will return home at the end of the session having either cut services or raised taxes. CEDA could help local governments address their own needs without putting a burden on the state’s budget.  

    A super-majority (60 percent) of the voters in a community could raise sales taxes to fund a specific project, and the tax increase would end upon funding of that project. Legislators should view CEDA as a critically needed economic development tool, which could stimulate our state economy by creating jobs and generating tax revenue.

    The proposed CEDA bill specifies that a CEDA referendum can only be used to propose capital improvements projects such as new public safety facilities, water/sewer/gas improvements, and construction or improvement of streets. By funding such projects through CEDA, local governments would save substantial amounts of taxpayer money as opposed to interest paid on long-term loans.

    Finally, without approval of the local citizens, a local governing body cannot implement CEDA. Please contact your senators and representatives and tell them that as a local citizen, you want the right to determine what capital improvements are made in your city or town by voting in a local option referendum.  

    The bottom line is that all of our municipalities need an option to generate revenue for capital and infrastructure improvements that does not require increasing property taxes.

    CEDA is that option.

    Sincerely,

    Mayor A. David Carr

    (City of Newton)

    Chairman, East Central MS Mayors Association