Harrison County to replace 2nd supervisor since December

Harrison County District 4 Supervisor William Martin was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home on February 25th. Martin had been indicted on bribery and related charges to which his attorney said he planned to plead guilty.

Martin is the second supervisor that will be replaced after Kim Savant resigned his District 2 seat in December 2014 for unrelated federal charges. The other county supervisors, Windy Swetman, Joe Meadows, Marlin Ladner, and Connie Rockco, will appoint a replacement to serve out Martin’s term. A special election is not required since this is an election year.

Four candidates have qualified to run for the District 4 seat in the November election.

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AP: Mississippi House passes bill to phase out state income tax

From the Associated Press, “Mississippi House passes bill to phase out state income tax” by Emily Wagster Pettus

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – The Mississippi House argued two hours Wednesday before passing an election-year proposal that could become one of the biggest tax cuts in state history if it becomes law – a plan to phase out the state’s personal income tax over the next 15 years if the economy grows.

The bill passed the Republican-led House 82-32, with several Democrats voting for the bill after they criticized it and tried to change it.

However, it’s unclear whether the bill, with a price tag of $1.7 billion, will survive the Senate.

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Senate’s presiding officer, is pushing a separate bill that would phase out the business franchise tax and give a more modest reduction in the income tax. It’s projected to cost $382 million.

Supporters of House Bill 1629 say eliminating Mississippi’s income tax would stimulate economic growth. Mississippi has long been one of the poorest states in the nation, and opponents of the bill say it would further weaken the state’s ability to pay for education, transportation, health care and other government services.

“It would devastate our budget,” said Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, who voted against the bill.

Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, said eliminating the income tax over several years would reward people who work and pay for government.

“It’s not an overly aggressive plan at all,” Formby said.

The Senate on Tuesday passed Senate Bill 2839, Reeves’ proposal to phase out Mississippi’s business franchise tax over 10 years and reduce some income taxes.

The two chambers will exchange bills for more work. Legislators have until late March to set a budget and pass or kill tax proposals.

The House bill was filed Monday, just two days before the deadline for the House and Senate to act on the first round of tax and budget proposals during this three-month legislative session.

During Wednesday’s debate, Democratic Rep. Cecil Brown of Jackson peppered the Ways and Means Committee chairman, Republican Jeff Smith of Columbus, about whether Smith had held public hearings or consulted economic experts about the potential impact of eliminating the personal income tax. Smith said he had done neither. But Smith said letting people keep more of the money they earn could stimulate spending and boost the economy.

“Your numbers don’t work,” Brown told him.

Smith responded: “Gentleman, I told you I have not talked to economists.”

The personal income tax is one of the largest sources of revenue to pay for schools, prisons, mental health care and other state services, generating about a quarter of state tax revenue.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said the House plan would trim nearly $1.4 billion in taxes in steps through 2028, pausing in any year when state revenue doesn’t grow by at least 3 percent. However, that total is based on partial collections from the 2012 calendar year, according to the state Department of Revenue. The state is projected to collect more than $1.7 billion in personal income taxes this year.

Democrats on Wednesday offered 10 amendments that were all defeated, including one that would have reduced the 7 percent tax on groceries.

Tax bills require a three-fifths majority to pass, so at least 69 votes were needed Wednesday.

Sixty-five Republicans and 18 Democrats voted for the bill, and 32 Democrats 32 voted against it.

Two Democrats voted “present,” which did not count for or against the bill. Three Democrats did not vote. One Republican and one Democrat were absent.

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House Bill introduced to end state personal income tax

In a bold proposal, Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn introduced a $1.38 billion plan to eliminate personal  income tax in Mississippi with House Bill 1629. Speaker Gun stated, “If we are going to do a tax cut, we want it to be real, substantial and make significant impact on the lives of those who are paying the tax.”

The press release provided the following key points of the bill that the House Ways and Means Committee passed February 24th:

  • 15 Year – $1,380,360,533 individual income tax elimination
  • 3% bracket eliminated by 2019
  • 4% bracket eliminated by 2022
  • 5% bracket eliminated by 2030
  • 3% revenue growth required
  • Mississippi family that makes $30,000 a year – $1,350 Raise
  • Mississippi family that makes $50,000 a year – $2,350 Raise
  • Mississippi family that makes $70,000 a year – $3,350 Raise

The Senate has approved Senate Bill 2839, a $382 million tax-cut proposal that phases out the business franchise tax and the personal income tax on the first $5,000 of taxable income.

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Special Election for House District 1 Announced

Gov. Bryant announced a special election will take place May 12th to fill the 1st Congressional District seat that has been open since Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s death on February 6th. The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of the 2-year term which will end in 2017.

State Rep. Chris Brown has said he will run. Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert, businessman Quentin Whitwell, and attorney Chip Mills have expressed interest. Travis Childers, who formerly held the seat from 2008-2011, has yet to make an announcement. March 27th is the qualifying deadline.

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Speaker Gunn seeking to phase-out personal income tax

The Sun Herald posted AP Newsbreak: Gunn to seek phaseout of personal income tax by Jeff Amy:

JACKSON, MISS. — In a game of escalating tax-cut proposals, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, will propose the biggest so far: a $1.7 billion phaseout of Mississippi’s state personal income tax over more than a decade, a top legislator said late Monday.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, confirmed Monday that he plans to bring forward the proposal in his committee Tuesday. Continue reading

Mississippi House summary for the week of February 16th

Budget matters consumed the Mississippi House this past week. The February 16th Mississippi House of Representatives Weekly Summary is posted below in its entirety:

This week, members of the House turned their focus toward budget matters, with both the Appropriations and Ways and Means committees very active. The Appropriations committee deals with spending the state’s money and is charged with designing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 State Budget, which begins July 1. The Ways and Means Committee focuses on sources of state revenue. This committee crafts bills used as vehicles to fund the government. Early projections suggest the budget for FY2016 will be close to $6 billion.

The Ways and Means Committee passed several bills out of committee and onto the House floor, including:

House Bill 38 (HB38) authorizes the issuance of bonds to provide funds for the Small Municipalities and Limited Population Counties Fund. This allows counties under populations of 30,000 and cities under populations of 10,000 to apply for grants with the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) of up to $250,000 a piece.

House Bill 155 (HB155) increases the historic property income tax credit from $60,000 to $100,000 and extends the time taxpayers may be eligible to receive it through 2030.

House Bill 216 (HB216) freezes the assessed valuation of a person’s home (ages 65 or older or totally disabled) as long as they live in that house and do not increase the value of the home through renovations.

On the House floor Wednesday and Thursday, House members first addressed Special Funds Appropriations bills and then moved to tackle General Funds Appropriations bills. Special Funds are amounts set aside in separate accounts in the State Treasury for specific spending purposes. This money is typically generated from fees and licensing expenses collected by agencies, and also includes federal funds available to agencies. General Funds are state revenues that are not restricted to specific spending purposes. General fund money is, for the most part, collected through taxation of individuals and businesses.

The amounts appropriated to each agency were determined based on agency needs, not what the agency already had in its coffers. The deadline to address these bills is February 25 at midnight.

During the presentation of the first Special Funds bill, an amendment was adopted to authorize a pay raise for employees of state agencies who have not had a pay raise since 2011. This amendment, which was also adopted for each additional appropriation bill, allows agencies to provide the raises, within their authorized budgets, up to five percent. Adoption of this amendment does not increase expenditures from the General Fund, and it will apply to all state agencies, not just those funded through Special Funds.

General Fund budget bills were taken up next. A few agency appropriations are noted:

House Bill 1536 (HB1536), the budget for the Mississippi Department of Education, passed unanimously. Included in the$2.5 billion budget is $106 million more for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). The MAEP money covers the second year of the teacher pay raise and assistant teacher raise, along with about $50 million going toward school districts.

House Bill 1538 (HB1538) provides the Mississippi Library Commission with an additional $1.3 million to go toward improving fiber optics and technology.

House Bill 1541 (HB1541), the budget for the Division of Medicaid: $882.4 million.

House Bill 1530 (HB1530), the budget for the Attorney General: $8.7 million.

House Bill 1555 (HB1555), the budget for the Department of Health: $62.4 million.

House Bill 1556 (HB1556), the budget for the Department of Human Services: $159.2 million.

See all weekly summaries from the Mississippi House of Representatives 2015 Regular Session website.

McDaniel undecided in 2015

In the Clarion-Ledger report “McDaniel ‘would prefer federal position’” by Geoff Pender, Sen. Chris McDaniel hinted at a possible 2016 run for the 4th Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Steven Palazzo. In the interview, McDaniel indicated that he will seek re-election for the District 42 state Senate seat that he currently fills. Officially, McDaniel has only stated that he will not run for Governor.

In lieu of an official announcement, some indications have pointed to a possible run for Mississippi Lieutenant Governor. McDaniel has openly objected to Lt. Gen. Tate Reeves’ control over the state Senate as stripping control from the people.

As a Tea Party favorite, McDaniel garnered national attention during the 2014 election campaign in which he pushed Sen. Thad Cochran to a run-off in the Republican Primary.

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