Despite a bright start to tax collections this year, Mississippi's state economist tells legislators tax revenues are down.
The first quarter of this fiscal year, Mississippi's Department of Revenue saw a 3.5 percent increase in tax collections. But, State Economist Darren Webb says that figure included one time monies, such as unclaimed properties. He says the real number is actually down by $1.5 million, which leaves the state with a budget of $5.6 billion for next year.
"The Mississippi economy has struggled really since the recovery. We've been essentially flat. We've seen some growth some years and some declines some years. But we really not had any real momentum so that's part of the equation," said Webb.
Webb says the other part is tax cuts. The elimination of the corporate franchise tax and lowering the income and self-employment taxes are included in his estimate for the 2019 fiscal year. The cuts are expected to reduce revenue by $415 million over 10 years. Republican Senator Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula, is on the Appropriations Committee. He doesn't anticipate state agency cuts.
"The budget recommendation that they came out with is the same that it was last year. So, if everybody's spending where they were then there shouldn't be any cuts," said Wiggins.
Democratic Senator Willie Simmons of Cleveland, is on the Legislative Budget Committee. He says it's important to be competitive. But the state has to consider issues like infrastructure.
"The counties and municipalities are having a tremendous need for infrastructure. And the growth is not just only slow at the state level, but it's also slow at the local level," said Simmons.
Both senators agree the state's revenues have increased over the years, but not enough to meet the needs.