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Reeves again blocks funds for LeFleur’s Bluff project in Jackson

For the third consecutive year legislative efforts to direct state money to renovate LeFleur’s Bluff in Jackson have been stymied, thanks in large part to Gov. Tate Reeves.

Earlier this week, the Republican governor vetoed a portion of a bill that directed $14 million to the office of Secretary of State Michael Watson for work on developing and improving a nature trail connecting parks and museums and making other tourism-related improvements in the LeFleur’s Bluff area.

It is not clear whether the Legislature could take up the veto during the 2025 session, which begins in January, though, that’s not likely. The Legislature had the option to return to Jackson Tuesday to take up any veto, but chose not to do so.

Of the project, Watson said, “Our office was approached late in the session about helping with a project to revitalize LeFleur’s Bluff. As Mississippi’s state land commissioner, I was more than happy to help lead this effort not just because it’s a natural fit for our office, but also because I believe Mississippi needs a thriving capital city to retain our best and brightest. Investing state funds in state property on a project to enhance the quality of life in Jackson makes good sense.

“Unfortunately, some only support it when it equates to campaign contributions. Sadly, through the line-item veto of the appropriation, Mississippians will once again wait another year for the opportunity to benefit from state investments for the greater public good.”

READ MORE: Gov. Reeves warns Mississippi: Challenge my vetoes, and it could jeopardize hundreds of projects

Various groups, such as representatives of the Mississippi Children’s Museum and many other community leaders have been working on the project for years. The area already is the home of the Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and a state park.

The issues with LeFleur’s Bluff first arose in 2022 when Reeves vetoed a $14 million appropriation that in part was designed to redesign and create a new golf course in the area. Previously, there had been a nine-hole, state-owned golf course operated by the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks at LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.

In 2022, the LeFleur’s Bluff project was one of literally hundreds of projects funded by the Legislature – many of which was tourism projects like LeFleur’s Bluff. The governor only vetoed a handful of those projects.

When issuing the LeFleur’s  Bluff veto, Reeves said the state should not be involved in funding golf courses.

Then last year $13 million was directed to the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to spend on the LeFleur’s Bluff project. But legislative leaders said state money would not go toward a golf course.

Lawmakers opted to transfer the project to the Secretary of State’s office late in the 2024 session, apparently in part because they felt the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks had not made enough of an effort to begin the project.

Lynn Posey, executive director of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said that before moving forward with the project, “We felt like we needed to do engineering work and see what the situation was. We never got a chance to move forward” because the Legislature redirected the money.

Posey said an engineer’s report was needed because “it is a unique piece of land.” He said much of the land is prone to flooding.

He said before that work could begin the Legislature switched the authority to the Secretary of State’s office. Posey was appointed to his current position by Reeves, whose office had no comment on the veto.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said after the governor’s veto, “Projects like the LeFleur’s Bluff development are critical to the Capital City, the wider metropolitan area, and our state. Public parks add to the quality of life for our citizens. I am hopeful the individuals involved in this project, including those at the Mississippi Children’s Museum, will continue their work to improve this state asset.” 

While the Constitution instructs the governor to provide to the Legislature a reason for any veto, Reeves did not do so this year when vetoing the money going to the Secretary of State’s office.

On Monday, the governor also vetoed a portion of another bill dealing with appropriations for specific projects. But in this case, the veto was more of a technicality. The bill was making corrections to language passed in previous sessions. In that language were five projects the governor vetoed in 2022.

The language, as it was written, would not have revived those previously vetoed projects, the governor said. But Reeves said he vetoed the five projects out of caution. He did the same in 2023 when those five projects, which included money appropriated in 2022 for the Russell C. Davis Planetarium in Jackson, were carried forward in a bill also making corrections to previously passed legislation.

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