Leaders, residents react to new legislation for Mississippi Lottery sent to governor

Published 11:10 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2018


NATCHEZ — The Mississippi Legislature on Tuesday approved a bill allowing a Mississippi lottery to help fund the state’s infrastructure needs, but local legislators were split on supporting the measure.District 97 Rep. Sam C. Mims V, R-McComb, whose district includes Adams, Amite, Franklin and Pike counties, said he voted against the lottery and was opposed to it from the beginning.

Mims said he believes the estimated $78 million to $80 million in revenue a lottery would generate is too high.

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“If you look at the transportation bill that will send more than $1 million to Natchez and Adams County,” Mims said, “I think we have more than enough to take care of the needs of Mississippi. I don’t think it is good policy to fund our transportation needs by buying lottery tickets.”

Nonetheless, Mims said he believes Gov. Phil Bryant will sign the lottery bill and House Bill 1 into law.

Earlier this year the U.S. Federal Highway Administration forced the state to close some 100 roads and bridges that had been deemed unsafe for travel because the state Legislature had failed to provide a funding mechanism for maintenance.

Bryant convened a special legislative session in Jackson on Thursday to come up with funding for the state’s infrastructure needs.

On Friday, the Legislature passed House Bill 1 to appropriate portions on the state’s new internet sales tax revenue to fund state infrastructure that was in need of repair.

Mims said House Bill 1 would eventually send more than $1M per year to Natchez and Adams County for infrastructure repair.

The internet sales tax distribution will be phased in over four years and at the end of the four years, Adams County will receive $513,723 per year and Natchez will receive $558,000.73 per year for roads and bridges, Mims said.

Mims said he voted for House Bill 1 but voted against the lottery.

“(The internet sales tax) is a really good piece of legislation to help our cities and counties with infrastructure,” Mims said.

Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, said he is pleased with the results of the special legislative session.

“It has been a long four days so far,” Dearing said following Tuesday’s final lottery vote, “but well worth it. We really need to fix the deteriorating bridges and this infrastructure bill will go a long way to help with that.”

Dearing supported both House Bill 1 and the lottery, and he said approximately 75 percent of lottery revenue will go to funding the state’s infrastructure.

Meanwhile, as word of the lottery’s passage got onto the streets, Natchez residents and visitors had mixed reactions.

Olivia Diana Mayberry, a Natchez native and resident, said she believes both good and bad could come from having a state lottery.

“I guess it would depend on who is overseeing it,” Mayberry said. “My concern would be what other things it would draw that would work against our state. People that spend their money when they shouldn’t — that maybe haven’t developed the discipline to know how to use their money and when to use it.”

Mayberry said she associates the word “lottery” with gambling.

“Everything, when it’s done with the principle of being good for a nation — with the right people in charge of it — you can find the end that you’re looking for. …,” Mayberry said. “It might create a good end — I don’t know — but I’ve seen some of the negative things that result from that kind of business.”

Blake Cupstid, who lives in Vicksburg but works for Verizon in Natchez, said he believes many good things could result from having the lottery in Mississippi as long as state leaders put the revenue generated from it to good use.

“It would bring money to a state that could really use the money,” Cupstid said. “Maybe, … if we put it towards fixing up our city instead of putting it into the pockets of politicians … maybe it would be worth it.”

Cupstid said he would buy lottery tickets in Mississippi when they are available.

“I do go to Louisiana every now and then and buy one. …,” Cupstid said. “If it helps Mississippi then we definitely need to do it.”

Candi Goff, who lives in Baton Rouge but was in Natchez on Tuesday, said she sees no harm in having something in Mississippi that Louisiana already has.

“I’m not politically minded whatsoever,” Goff said. “I think it’s awesome. It brings in a lot of revenue for the state. Though very few people in that are actually going to win, it’s always bringing in money.”

Goff said she had a friend whose lottery winnings helped him rebuild after the 2016 flood in Baton Rouge.

“He won about $200,000 after the flood of 2016,” Goff said, “and he had lost his business. It helped him get his business back.”

Here is how Southwest Mississippi’s other legislators, who could not be immediately reached Tuesday, voted on the lottery: Robert L. Johnson III, D-Adams County, voted no; Angela Cockerham, D-Magnolia, voted yes; Sen. Tammy F. Witherspoon, D-Magnolia, was absent from the senate chamber vote and was “pair” voted with a yes vote against a senator who was in the chamber, Sen. Sollie B. Norwood, D-Jackson, who pair voted no and announced the pair vote with Cockerham. Paired votes do not count for or against the bill, according to the Associated Press.