State Legislature back in session

The Mississippi Legislature convened their 2016 session on Tuesday, January 5th and re-elected Rep. Philip Gunn as House Speaker and selected Sen. Terry Burton as President Pro-Tem.

Gov. Phil Bryant plans to push comprehensive school choice, additional workforce training, tax credits and cuts, and repairing the state’s foster care program.

Eliminating the corporate franchise tax tops Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ agenda. He also wants to expand school choice while prioritizing BP oil disaster settlement funds for South Mississippi and the Coast.

Speaker Philip Gunn has already made waves by pushing to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, creating a new education funding formula to replace MAEP, and ensure the state lives within its budget.

Links:

 

Advertisements

Governor’s review of the 2015 Legislative Session

The Clarion-Ledger summarized the 2015 session as follows:

For all the talk of broad tax cuts, or “a taxpayer raise,” the only break rank-and-file Mississippians will see from the 2015 legislative session is $5, from the elimination of vehicle inspection stickers.

The state’s GOP leadership, holding both a House and Senate majority, passed competing tax cut plans, and each chamber initially killed the other’s. They reached a compromise only late in the session, but then Democrats prevented the super-majority vote needed for passage.

This election-year session, which wrapped up Thursday, at times appeared more about politics or minutiae than major policy. Lawmakers argued over joining a drive to compel Congress to balance its budget (they did), banning trade with Iran (they didn’t, after realizing Toyota might have Iranian investments), exempting children from vaccinations for their parents’ philosophical beliefs (they’re not), feeding deer meat to prison inmates (they’re not) and whether to allow homeschooled children to play public school sports (they didn’t).

At one point in the session, lawmakers couldn’t get a bipartisan two-thirds vote to delay business for a day for an ice storm.

“As always, you get some things you want and some things you don’t,” Gov. Phil Bryant said of a legislative session where he saw several of his initiatives shot down.

In his own statement, Gov. Bryant praised the legislature for passing the following legislation to him:

  • Education vouchers for special needs students (SB 2695)
  • Strengthening 2nd Amendment protections (SB 2394, SB 2619)
  • Improving state contracting procedures (HB 825, SB 2400)
  • Investing in Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula and Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson
  • Increasing state trooper pay (SB 2500)
  • Medical licenses for retired military practicing on voluntary basis (HB 215)
  • Increasing public hospital transparency (SB 2407)
  • Waiving out-of-state tuition for military veterans (SB 2127)
  • Standing with Israel by restricting state financial involvement with entities conducting energy-related business with Iran (HB 1127)

See the Governor’s full statement below.

Continue reading

Lt. Gov. proposes alternative tax cut plan

The House and the Senate have passed competing tax cut proposals:

  • The Senate passed  SB 2839 that would eliminate the corporate franchise tax over 10 years and provide breaks for small businesses and eliminate the 3% bracket on personal income taxes.
  • The House passed HB 1629 bill eliminating the personal income tax altogether within 15 years conditioned upon a 3% or better “growth trigger.”

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has offered a compromise: implement the Senate plan over 10 years and then eliminate the state’s 4 percent income tax bracket over the next 5 years for individuals and businesses with no growth triggers.

The Senate Finance Committee has passed the compromise but the Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has not yet considered it.

Related links:

Legislature sends record education budget to Governor

If the bill passed by the House and Senate is signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, Mississippi public education will receive a record $2.52 billion in 2016. Over 4 years, education funding will increase by $285 million.

On February 18th with virtually no debate, the House unanimously passed a bill to increase the Mississippi Adequate Education Program by $109.9 million. Since both chambers’ priorities were very similar, the Senate simply passed House Bill 1536 on March 17th with a 49-2 vote.

Those promoting Initiative 42, a proposed constitution amendment to require fully funding the MAEP formula, remain unsatisfied despite the record amount.

For more information:

2015 Candidates for Lieutenant Governor

Incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will be challenged in the Republican primary by Alisha Nelson McElhenney while Jelani Barr and Tim Johnson will square off in a Democrat primary battle.

The winners of the respective primaries on August 4th will meet in the general election on November 3rd.

Related Links:

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.

For more information:

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.

For more information: