JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi House has approved tens of millions of dollars' worth of tax breaks for businesses, but it's unclear if the proposals will survive the Senate.
A top budget writer, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, estimated Tuesday that the proposed tax breaks would be worth at least $50 million a year and he said that's a big problem. Frierson, R-Poplarville, said the $5.5 billion state budget is already stretched thin. He said even if legislators spend all the available cash for the fiscal year that starts July 1, they'd still be $172 million short of paying for critical needs. Taking out another $50 million would put the shortage at $222 million.
The House needs to learn to say no to groups that want something, whether it's more state funding or a lower tax bill, Frierson said.
"There's consequences in politics. You can't be a narcissistic populist," he told reporters after the House passed several bills Tuesday. "Populism is wrong, whether it's liberal or conservative."
But Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, said he's not trying to deplete the state coffers by pushing for tax breaks. He said that when businesses get incentives, they create jobs, the economy expands and the state collects more revenue.
"Do you think that when we take something out of the general fund we're not expecting to get something back?" Smith told the House. "Come on, folks. Y'all are good business people."
Smith said the Senate rejected several tax incentives that the House passed in 2012. One of the few that passed both chambers and was signed into law last year was an inventory tax break that was "as weak as a popcorn poot," Smith said.
The House had passed several tax-break bills earlier this session, including sales tax incentives for hotel renovations and income tax credits for those who employ veterans.
The bills that passed Tuesday were: