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GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — The battle over how the state should spend $700 million in economic damage payments from an oil spill continues on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Sun Herald reports that the Gulf Coast Business Council’s regular meeting ignited Tuesday when business people and state legislators discussed the political hot potato. Oil company BP PLC is making the payments after 2010’s Deepwater Horizon spill.

Coastal leaders have been fighting for years to bring most of the money to the coast. Many there want an independent committee, not state lawmakers, to decide how to spend the funds.

But some state lawmakers want to control the multimillion-dollar pot, hoping to allocate significant funds to roads and bridges statewide.

Lawmakers failed to agree on how to spend the money during this year’s legislative session.

State Sen. Joel Carter, a Gulfport Republican, said at Tuesday’s meeting that he is counting on Republican Gov. Phil Bryant to call a special session to resolve the issue. If he doesn’t, Carter said, the issue likely won’t be resolved in 2019, a statewide election year — and Mississippians will have to wait until 2020 to see any more BP dollars than have already been spent.

Gulf Coast Business Council Chairman John Hairston said Tuesday that the council will stand its ground in negotiations with the state, demanding at least 75 percent of the pot. The coast would never see this amount, Hairston said, without the council’s insistent lobbying.

But Rep. Scott DeLano, a Republican from Biloxi, called the council’s persistence a “failure,” saying its advocacy put him under fire in the wider House and hurt his chances of getting the best deal.

During negotiations, DeLano said fellow legislators pointed fingers at him, saying his proposals didn’t even have the support of his own constituents.

“Help us,” DeLano said to council members Tuesday. “Don’t throw rocks at us when we’re trying to get this accomplished.”

Rep. Michael Watson, a Republican from Pascagoula, put the blame elsewhere: Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. Tensions are high between the House and Senate because of Reeves’ tight grip and stubbornness, Watson said.

“The dynamic of the lieutenant governor and how he’s operated over the past seven years now is basically, it’s my way or the highway,” said Watson, who has long been distant from Reeves even though they’re in the same party.


Information from: The Sun Herald,