Questions on MDA

Wyatt Emmerich

Northside Sun

Why would the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) give developers four more years to cash in an incentive that lawmakers supposedly killed in 2014?  MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough recently granted a four-year extension to developers Andrew Mattiace and H.C. Bailey for the construction of the third phase of Renaissance at Colony Park.  The developers had applied for and were approved for nearly $30 million in “cultural retail attraction (CRA)” incentives in 2014, for the second phase.  Under state law, developers had until July 1, 2016, to complete the project. Now, the two have until 2020 to complete the project, and can use the funds for the third phase, which includes a controversial Costco wholesaler.  The CRA allows developers of shopping centers to be reimbursed for up to 30 percent of a project’s total cost, from the sales taxes generated from the project.  Why would McCullough, an appointee of Gov. Phil Bryant, approve an extension on a law that Bryant helped kill in 2014?  The Legislature killed the measure during the 2014 session, and Bryant signed the law, but not before MDA had awarded $154 million in CRA incentives for the construction of three major retail centers, including the Outlet Shops of the Mid-South, owned by out-of-state Simkin Group and Poag Lifestyle Centers.  Between April 23, 2014 – the date the governor signed legislation sunsetting the CRA program – and July 1, 2014, the date the law actually sunset, MDA approved two more applications, for $29.6 million and $49 million respectively. The $29.6 million was for the second phase of Renaissance, which was to be located north of the current shopping center. McCullough’s decision is troubling for a number of reasons. First, how can an appointed official continue a law that was repealed by the state Legislature and the governor? This simply doesn’t make sense. Second, the state doesn’t have the money to keep the incentive going in perpetuity.  Bryant ordered statewide budget cuts in January. And last weekend, local media reported that additional budget cuts were likely. One of the big shortfall areas? Sales tax revenue. The state is continuing level funding for public education, which is essentially a budget cut when inflation and rising costs are included.  With statewide budget cuts, why is the state continuing a multimillion-dollar giveaway to developers?  We shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing shopping centers with public funds, especially at the expense of more legitimate uses of the public money such as education and roads.