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Bigger Pie Forum – Promoting market-driven economic growth for a bigger and brighter Mississippi.

The drama played out before the Mississippi Public Service Commission concerning Mississippi Power Company’s Kemper Plant is hard to comprehend. If one were to imagine this in a courtroom, Mississippi Power would be the defendant with many lawyers at its table. The commission would be a three-judge panel, and the “independent” MS Public Utility Staff would serve as law clerks to the judges, required by law to balance the interests of the public, the commission and the utilities it regulates. However, the other table is empty. Normally, opposing counsel or a prosecutor – the advocate for justice, the defender of the victimized – would sit there. The residential customers, the victims playing out in this drama, are bystanders with no advocate at the table representing them or their need for justice in the courtroom. The judicial process doesn’t work if there isn't an advocate for common citizens. Rather, it is a recipe for an enormous miscarriage of justice. The issue of the commissioners never hearing from the residential customer’s side of the case is one-sided. The commission acts as a judicial body, but the process is not adversarial. The need for a consumer advocate is apparent.

The Kemper County Lignite Plant is a cancer in Mississippi's economy. Bigger Pie has done an extensive body of work regarding the Kemper Plant through the years. From the beginning, the plant's additional capacity was not needed. For years, the building of this plant soared over budget and time constraints ending up costing over $7 billion and 7 years to construct a plant which ultimately did not work. The unworkable, untested technology, along with the low cost of natural gas forecast prices ended up being Kemper's demise formally with the Mississippi Public Service Commission. We believe Southern Company / Mississippi Power Company mislead shareholders, regulators and their customers from the beginning in an effort to use Mississippi as a testing ground for pushing an experimental clean coal project under the Obama Administration.

 

BPF follows, analyzes and comments on the latest Mississippi legislative session striving to inform Mississippians on its views regarding public policies that benefit or cause harm to our economic condition. The 2018 Mississippi legislative session was marked more by what did not get accomplished than what did. Major pieces of legislation were either defeated outright or denied a vote because of expected defeat. This included changes to the school funding formula, a substantial and permanent increase in funding for roads and bridges, and expansion of school choice programs. None of those occurred. Neither did the creation of a state lottery, which some had hoped for. The good, the bad and the ugly summary statement for the 2018 legislative session: not many good things, not many bad things. Sometimes, that’s the best we taxpayers can hope for. But it’s not what we should expect.

Beginning in 1973, the Mississippi River started to rise and to flood more from Greenville to Baton Rouge. The floods are more frequent, longer and higher. Why? It isn’t more rain. Average rainfall has increased very little since 1940. What’s causing it? And what can be done about it? We think work by the US Army Corps of Engineers on the river and urban development upriver are the primary causes. The Corps has shortened, straightened, and channelized the river. This has increased the flow to the lower river. Faster runoff from development upriver has also increased the flow. But the Corps has not increased the discharge to the Gulf to handle the greater flow. So the river rises, backs up, and floods more. In fact, the discharge to the Gulf has actually decreased. BPF proposes the Corps should operate the ORCC to increase the discharge as the river rises — and that Congress should authorize this. Now. This would lower flood crests, make floods shorter, and reduce the risk of levee failure — and a course change. It would also reduce batture and backwater flooding and the resulting economic and environmental damage on some 1.5 million acres in Mississippi and Louisiana. Time to change the flood control plan – before it’s too late.

The Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi is a ticking fiscal time bomb. The annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) given to retirees, often in a year-ending lump sum known as the “13th check,” is threatening to hollow out the pension fund’s finances. The study commission on PERS recommended that the COLA be frozen for three years. Since the report was issued in 2011, the Legislature has avoided action with the 13th check. It’s time for the Legislature to do something to diffuse the COLA time bomb. Without action, it could result in the Legislature having to bail out the pension fund, which is supposed to be self-sustaining, with possible tax increases. Our state and municipal employees would have to contribute more to their pensions. Either way, it’ll be far easier to resolve the program now than later, when solutions will be far more painful.