Tax cut proposal suffers temporary cut of its own

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The House on Tuesday passed a hobbled version of one of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ most coveted agenda items, the Taxpayer Pay Raise Act.

Reeves and other Senate leaders wanted roughly $575 million in tax cuts, achieved through a combination of eliminating the franchise tax, increasing deductions for self-employed individuals and phasing out the 3- and 4-percent income tax brackets by 2026.

Their effort was contained in Senate Bill 2858 and passed the Senate 39-11.

Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus.

Gil Ford Photography

Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus.

After the House Ways and Committee passed a scaled down version of the bill Monday that kept only the franchise tax cut intact, a separate amendment was added Tuesday so that no tax cut would take effect until a state lottery is enacted.

“This is not going to go to the Senate and come back looking anything like it does now,” said Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, who chairs Ways and Means. His reference was that the Senate would likely seek a conference committee on taxes and anything contained in either the Senate or House bills would be back on the table for negotiation and inclusion in a final bill in that conference committee.

Smith added that the House would kill any bill that comes out of conference that contains a franchise-tax cut.

“I am pleased to have a bill alive after today’s deadline that can offer meaningful long-term tax relief to Mississippi families,” Reeves said in a statement. “I look forward to working in good faith with House leadership to deliver a flatter and fairer tax code, less government, more jobs and a stronger economy.”

With hopes of a transportation-funding bill also fading, one House member attempted unsuccessfully to offer amendments to raise money for roads.

Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, who led the House Transportation Committee until this session, called for a roads plan a jobs plan that could generate 7,000 construction positions.

“There’s a bridge out out there with somebody’s name on it. When that happens, look in the mirror,” Johnson told his colleagues, referring to the possibility that one of the state’s deteriorating bridges could collapse.

Rusting bridge on Mississippi Highway 57

Mississippi Dept. of Transportation

Rusting bridge on Mississippi Highway 57

The Mississippi Department of Transportation estimates that more than 900 of the state’s 5,777 bridges are deficient; replacing them would cost $2.5 billion.

Smith said he believes Senate Transportation Chairman Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, has some ideas for infrastructure maintenance that “are not dead, but very sick.”

A phone call to Sen. Simmons’s Capitol office was not immediately returned.

The House passed its version 76-42.