Supes grill lobbyist over no state funds

Supes grill lobbyist over no state funds


The lobbying firm hired by the county for $8,000 a month to influence the state Legislature said Madison County is a “victim of its own success” when grilled on Monday about why the county did not receive an appropriation for roads for the first time in six years. 

Clare Hester, founder of Capitol Resources LLC, the lobbying firm, briefed supervisors after a request from District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter about the lack of money from the state this year. 

Hester’s firm was hired in January, replacing the Clearwater Group, which had lobbied on behalf of the county for nearly a decade. 

Hester said Amazon and the $200 million loan the county received from the state made it difficult to get anything else out of legislators. 

“You’re somewhat a victim of your own success,” she told supervisors. “You had a lot of towns in the past that hadn’t gotten anything. Their members were first on the list so to speak.”

Baxter said earlier this month there was $16 million in appropriations for the Reunion-Bozeman interconnectivity project that didn’t make it to the final version of the appropriations bill. 

Hester and her colleagues then pointed to a request from the Mississippi Department of Transportation asking for $500 million for capacity projects, only to receive about half of that as an obstacle. She reiterated what Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons said at the last board meeting that the Reunion Interchange project has moved to the top of the list of capacity projects for the state. 

“We continue to battle forward to try to get the money,” she said. “We’re in good shape going forward on the other projects we’re working on.” 

She added, “This has been a tremendous year for Madison County.”

Board President Gerald Steen said that he worked “very well” with Capitol Resources over the last four months and recognized the Amazon announcement may impact additional appropriations. 

But Baxter disagreed. 

He said he spoke with legislators and Amazon did not surface one time in the discussions, adding that an attempt by Steen and other supervisors to change the scope of Bozeman Road work in addition to switching lobbying firms is what resulted in no road appropriations. 

“We went six years with total success on these projects and we switched the scope of one of those projects,” he said. “And we switched the lobbying firm.”

He said in conversation with legislators that the addition of the $10 billion Amazon project will actually increase traffic and thus make the project “even more needed.”

“We had a successful system and we went and tried to fix something that wasn’t broken,” Baxter added. 

Steen responded by saying “You don’t get everything you ask for all the time.”

In 2019, the county received $8 million from the state. In 2020 and 2021, the county received $5 million. In 2022, the county received $2.5 million, and in 2023, the county received $12 million. 

State Rep. Jill Ford in a Facebook post last week indicated that what Baxter was saying was more accurate than blaming Amazon. 

“It’s always hard to get money out of the legislature and it makes it a lot harder when you have one certain supervisor changing the scope of the work in the middle of project — hence ‘starting project at Bozeman and 463’ actually means starting project at 463,” she wrote. “And they might want to double check where they are sending out tax dollars before they wire it overseas and then do nothing about it.”

Ford was referencing a social engineering scam that bilked the county out of $2.7 million that came out of a state bond fund bank account. 

Ford did say that despite the county not get a road appropriation, other governments in the county did receive something. 

Ridgeland received $4 million for infrastructure improvements and construction of the Commerce Park Connector Road.

Madison received $750,000 for the renovation of the Historic Arts Center. Gluckstadt received $750,000 for road and intersection improvements. 

Canton received $750,000 for the rehabilitation of the Nissan pump station. Flora received $400,000 for infrastructure improvements. 

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