Tax credit battle looms

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The House approved a measure Tuesday to renew the state’s historic tax credit program, but stripped out a provision added by the Senate to eliminate the cultural retail tax credit, which provides subsidies to retail developments that highlight Mississippi culture.

David Blount

David Blount

The author of that amendment, Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said Mississippi taxpayers should not subsidize shopping malls that compete with other stores developed with private financing.

“The state of Mississippi and taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing shopping malls in a budget crisis,” Blount told Mississippi Today. “There’s no reason taxpayers should send their money to fund private developers. That (is) only going to hurt all the other business that were bought and paid for with private money.”

The cultural attraction tax credit program was created in 2013 to aid in the construction of the Outlets of Mississippi in Pearl. Legislative supporters said at the time that the project would create approximately 1,600 retail jobs, including top management positions earning as much as $75,000 per year.

The state’s historic credit program is primarily aimed at restoration of buildings for mixed commercial and residential use.

Before adjourning for the day on Wednesday, the House dealt with bills on school-district consolidation, Jackson infrastructure and local taxation issues.

House Bill 991, to consolidate three school districts in Chickasaw County, passed the House earlier in the session by a narrow margin. However, the vote the House took Wednesday was on the Senate version of the bill to study the issue; the committee is to submit its report by Dec. 2016.

Democratic Rep. Preston Sullivan, whose district includes Chickasaw County, was thankful for the temporary reprieve.

“I know when I’m whipped so I want to thank you all 61 of you who voted with me to allow my people to have some input,” Sullivan said,of the first House vote.

The House also sent to conference Senate Bill 2525, which establishes a capitol-complex improvement district in the center of Jackson to provide up to $21 million for infrastructure maintenance and police and fire protection for state buildings. SB 2525 was part of Jackson’s legislative agenda for this session.

Under House Bill 1507, the city of Brandon could have the ability to impose a 3 percent tax on certain sales to raise money for a new amphitheater. If passed, the bill would expire after four years.