Internet sales tax could help with ‘raggedy’ roads

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Mississippians soon may have to start paying sales tax on online purchases besides those with Amazon.

The House of Representatives voted 79-38 Wednesday to pass a bill that would require businesses lacking a physical presence in Mississippi that have more than $250,000 in sales to collect state sales tax from customers.

Recently, the Mississippi Department of Revenue announced that online retailer Amazon would begin collecting sales tax from Mississippians starting on Feb. 1.

Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, in defending the bill, called it a user fee on out-out-state Internet businesses and not a tax increase. Lamar also said it was tantamount to “criminal tax evasion” to not pay sales tax on online purchases.

In what he called a conservative estimate, Lamar said that the tax would generate between $50 million and $150 million per year. Provisions in the bill call for 70 percent of the funds to be used for roads and bridges; another 15 percent would go to counties and 15 percent would be distributed to municipalities.

Mississippi House

Rep. Joel Bomgar, R-Madison

Despite its passage, the bill drew rebuke from some of the newer members of the Republican caucus. Rep. Joel Bomgar, R-Madison, said Mississippi voters did not send a Republican supermajority to the House to raise taxes.

“Every dollar we collect is one fewer dollar than Mississippians have in their pockets. We should be focused on growing our economy so that our revenue goes up (and) the economy gets bigger for everyone,” Bomgar said. “There’s absolutely nothing conservative about this bill.”

Bomgar’s speech against the bill drew amens from some Democrats. Another Republican, Rep. Dana Criswell, R-Olive Branch, cautioned that Republicans voting for the measure could face primary challenges in 2019.

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, spoke in favor of the bill, saying the leadership should be applauded for bringing the bill forward.

“We’ve got children going to school in some of the raggediest roads in the country. We’ve got bridges falling down. We’ve got roads where trucks can’t get goods in and out — I’m so glad to see this,” Hines said.