"Has everyone voted? Close the machine, Madam Clerk. By a vote of 83 yeas to 32 nays, the bill passes.”
The House of Representatives passed House Bill 1629, yesterday.
The measure seeks to phase out Mississippi's income tax over the next 15 years, but only if the state's other revenue streams continue to grow by at least three percent annually.
Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has been a vocal supporter of the cut.
"That's a phenomenal development for the tax payers in this state," says Gunn. "I'm very proud of the House members who voted for it. I can't see why anyone would vote against it. It is true, real relief for the citizens of this state."
During the floor debate, House Democrats argued that the tax cut would have serious repercussions on state services, like public education, transportation and Medicaid.
Democratic Representative Cecil Brown of Jackson got into a particularly heated exchange with Republican Ways and Means Committee Chair Jeff Smith of Columbus, when he demanded to know what economists thought of the tax cut.
"You had no hearings on this bill at all?" asked Brown.
"That's right," confirmed Smith.
"No public hearings? No committee hearings?" Brown asked. "Okay, what did the state economist have to say about this when you talked to him about it?"
"He didn't tell me anything, because I didn't talk to him about it"
"You didn't talk to the state economist about it all, so we don't know what his position on it would be." What about when you talked to the various university economists about it? Did you talk to the people at Mississippi State or..."
"Maybe I can shorten some of your questions," offered Smith. "I did not talk to anybody in economics about it."
Despite the two hour onslaught of questions and amendments, many Democrats voted in favor of the cut. House Minority Leader Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto says the elimination of the income tax is just part of election year politics.
"The vote is not a real vote today, the vote is all about the next election” says Moak. ”It's all about attempting to get a negative postcard against some of these guys saying they don't really support reducing any taxes whatsoever. That's all it really was."
The bill will now to the head to the Senate for its approval, where many lawmakers speculate the measure will die in favor of that chambers own tax cut plan passed earlier this week.