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Movement but still no deal on tax reform or ARPA spending at State Capitol

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 8:36 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Some big money matters are left undone with just days left in this year’s legislative session. And despite movement on two issues Wednesday, there’s no resolution.

For the second week in a row, Speaker Philip Gunn is announcing a scaled back version of the House plan to eliminate the state income tax.

“We’re going to present that proposal to them today,” said Gunn. “It, basically, the way it operates is just phases out the income tax at $100 million a year until it’s gone.”

Asked if he’d walk away from budget discussions if his tax plan isn’t passed: “No, no, we’re gonna do a budget,” noted Gunn. “We’ll do a budget. We’re not- it’s not our intention to leave here without a budget.”

Beyond that, all the Speaker was willing to say is that the House position is to be very conservative in that budgeting. In a statement from Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, he said:

“We also understand the House is inclined to base the budget on the Legislative Budget Recommendation (LBR) from December. Normally, agency budgets finalized at the end of the Session address deficits, new programs, court costs, and other necessary expenses. Without any adjustments from LBR, there will be no funds for the new state trooper class and no trooper raises. No new fire trucks for rural communities. No new funds for Corrections, even though the agency is embroiled in a federal lawsuit. No match money for the federal infrastructure bill which helps maintain our roads, bridges, and water systems. No public school, community college, or university building funds.”

An hour later, Working Together Mississippi gathered to pray for the remainder of the session, including a call to action on ARPA funding.

“House leadership has threatened to let this money go unspent if the Senate does not concede to their demand for full repeal of the income tax that provides 1/3 of the state’s recurring revenue,” said Bishop Ronnie Crudup with Working Together Mississippi.

“If you ask the average Mississippian, are they more interested in when they flush their toilet, whether it goes where it needs to go? Or when they turn their faucet, there’s clean drinking water that comes out,” said Sen. John Horhn. “They’ll tell you they want that more than a tax cut.”

The Senate has proposed obligating the majority of the $1.8 billion this session. Meanwhile, the House says it has taken a closer look and is ready to obligate a portion of it this year. However, the House plan would only obligate about half the money.

Speaker Gunn was asked specifically about whether the House would be willing to spend ARPA funds, regardless of whether the Senate agrees to the tax proposal.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, as I said, we recognize that this is money that helps our cities and counties. It has different restrictions attached to it, so we don’t have a problem doing that.”

The Lt. Governor also noted in his statement that: “None of us were elected to grind government to a halt. We will not conduct ourselves this way in the Mississippi Senate. We will continue to work and call for public conference committees on the budget and other general bills.”

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