Mississippi lawmakers have finalized a budget for fiscal year 2017. Tax cuts, slashed budgets and bond projects are on their way to the Governor’s desk.
It was another long day in the Mississippi Legislature, as lawmakers worked to meet a midnight deadline to craft a state budget that begins July 1.
Probably the most notable item to pass the House and Senate was Lieutenant Governor’s Tate Reeves’ “Taxpayer Pay Raise Act,” which cuts $415 million dollars in taxes mostly beginning in FY 2018. Reeves says the plan was backed by lawmakers of both parties.
“We’re going to get every person that pays individual income tax in our state is going to get a pay raise,” Reeves says. “I think that’s something that great. It’s going to put more money in people’s pockets back home. The other thing that we’re going to do is eliminate the corporate franchise tax over a period of time. Those job creators, the people who are investing capital in our state, are going to get a tax break as well.”
During debate in the House, Republican Ways and Means Chair Jeff Smith of Columbus all but told members it was imperative that they pass the tax cut plan in order to keep the day’s second most important item, a $250 million dollar bond bill, alive.
“Some of ya’ll probably haven’t made your mind up,” says Smith. “Some of ya’ll are back there probably shaking like a dog trying to pass a peach seed, but you need to think real hard about this. It’s not going to be done for two years. I’m not going to sit right here and tell you that if we don’t pass this there won’t be a bond bill, but something like that could come about.”
Lawmakers also put the finishing touches on a state budget that slashes funding for most state agencies. However, some items like the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which dictates funding for public education, were left untouched. The state’s troubled foster care system received an increase.
Yet, Freshman, Democratic Representative Jay Hughes of Oxford says the entire budgeting process has been disheartening.
“It was unreal for me to watch mental health, the health department and our veterans,” says Hughes. “Then to turn around and give tax credits and tax cuts in the hundreds of millions of dollars. I’m pretty disappointed about it to be honest.”
Lawmakers will now finish out the week by negotiating general bills before they likely head home on Thursday.