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With Mississippi revenues slowing, Black Caucus members say they will oppose tax cuts in 2016


JACKSON, Mississippi — Members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus said Wednesday that they will oppose any effort by Republicans to push tax cuts during the 2016 session.

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has long said he wants to phase out the corporate franchise tax, which generates about $242 million a year for a state budget that tops $6 billion. But caucus members said that with collections of most types of state taxes currently falling short of projections, Mississippi can't afford to make changes that might further reduce revenue.

Eliminating the franchise tax would help big corporations but do nothing for average families, said Rep. Omeria Scott, D-Laurel, a caucus member.

"If you want education, then you'd better watch this budgeting process," Scott said during a Capitol news conference. "If you want some roads and bridges, some corrective action there, then you'd better be trying to watch this budget process because the only thing that you've heard talked about for certain coming from the victors on Nov. 3 has been tax cuts."

Republicans on Nov. 3 maintained their majorities in the House and the Senate.

Changing tax laws requires a three-fifths vote in both chambers, plus the governor's signature.

Republicans already held a three-fifths supermajority in the Senate last term and will maintain it for the four-year term that starts in January. The GOP is one vote short of attaining a supermajority in the House, with one tied election still be decided.

All members of the Black Caucus in the House and the Senate are Democrats. That means, in theory, that if Republicans all vote the same way, they could pass tax bills without the help of Black Caucus members or white Democrats.

During the 2015 session, Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn pushed unsuccessfully for a $555 million, multi-year plan to phase out a variety of taxes if the economy grows at specified levels. Gunn has not said whether he will revive that or a similar plan during the 2016 session.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant met with Gunn, Reeves and other top budget writers Monday and reduced the estimate of how much money state government will have available to spend this budget year and next. The change was based on the state's slower than expected economic growth.

House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, serves on the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and said he does not expect to see a big proposal for tax cuts during the 2016 session. "Not unless revenues perk back up substantially," Moore said Wednesday.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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