Teacher compensation, ARPA funds, and state income tax

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – There is a lot of activity at the State Capitol this week.

The state legislature has approved a much-needed teacher salary increase plan. For years, teachers in Mississippi have been underpaid. If people didn’t realize the value of teachers before, parents quickly realized their importance when kids were stuck at home during the pandemic.

Kudos to the Legislature for raising the salary above the Southeast average. This will help with teacher recruitment and retention. Now Governor Reeves must sign the legislation to make it official.

On the contrary, there is no cooperation between the chambers with regard to state income tax.

Speaker Gunn and House Representatives were holding billions of dollars in desperately needed federal relief funds hostage to communities across the state, using them as leverage to get the Senate to agree to the terms of their cutback plan. of taxes.

The president is now backtracking on that stance, and hopefully those dollars will soon flow to help Mississippi cities and counties. However, we now hear that adequately funding the budget for the coming year could be the next hostage target.

Here is a statement made this week by Lieutenant Governor Hosemann regarding the situation on Capitol Hill:

“We understand that the Chamber is now ready to allocate ARPA’s unique funds and we look forward to working with them to finalize a plan.

On taxes, the Senate has proposed $439 million in recurring tax cuts in addition to the $235 million ($674 million total) that has yet to be phased in from tax cuts. 2016. This is a Conservative plan to give taxpayers money back.

In the many hours we have spent in the House on this issue, we have not said that we never support the elimination of income tax in Mississippi. We may process further reductions at any time. Taxpayers expect us to be responsible stewards of taxpayers’ money.

The Senate plan includes cutting taxes and taking over basic government services, not cutting them.

We also understand that the House is inclined to base the budget on the December Legislative Budget Recommendation (LBR). Normally, agency budgets finalized at the end of the session address deficits, new programs, legal fees, and other necessary expenditures.

Without any LBR adjustments, there will be no funds for the new state trooper class and no trooper increases. No new fire trucks for rural communities. No new funds for corrections, even though the agency is embroiled in a federal lawsuit. No matching money for the federal infrastructure bill that helps maintain our roads, bridges and water systems. No funds for public schools, community colleges or universities.

None of us were elected to cripple the government. We will not conduct ourselves that way in the Mississippi Senate. We will continue to work and convene public conference committees on the budget and other general bills.

Most of us would like to have lower taxes, but most people also understand that it takes money to make government work properly. If Mississippi didn’t have huge problems that still need to be solved, then it would be high time for a tax cut.

But… Mississippi has a lot of trouble, and it takes money. And, if the elimination of state income tax is so attractive when recruiting new businesses and new residents…why is DeSoto County the fastest growing area in Mississippi? It borders Tennessee…a state with no income tax.

It looks like Lt. Governor Hosemann and the State Senate are taking a more pragmatic, common-sense approach when it comes to the right way to provide tax relief and not negatively impact our state. . We need more at all levels of government.

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