Potential cost of tourism tax rebates balloons

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 10, 2014 at 11:09 am •  Published: February 10, 2014
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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Developers are rushing to stake a claim to Mississippi's tourism tax development incentives, even as lawmakers must decide whether to extend the tax credits.

The Mississippi Development Agency has now awarded up to $155 million in potential subsidies for three malls since the sales tax rebate program was widened last year to include "cultural retail attractions."

Under the terms of the law, which was expanded to cover shopping centers in 2013, the state will return 80 percent of sales taxes collected at a development over 10 years, until the total collected reaches 30 percent of the construction price.

If lawmakers don't act to extend the tax credits, they will run out on July 1. House Bill 1233, sponsored by Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, would extend the program by three more years. After a lawmaker questioned the bill last week, it was moved to the bottom of the House calendar. Thursday's deadline for House consideration could pass before lawmakers get to it.

Martinson said she thinks incentives have been helpful, but said there's some sentiment to let the lures run out.

"We might even think about letting it go," she said. "It might be at the point to sit back and see what we've done."

Many economists voice doubts about subsidizing retail development. Good Jobs First, a nonprofit group that is skeptical of business subsidies, is particularly critical of giving money to retailers, saying they don't pay well or create spinoff jobs.

"Building new retail space doesn't grow the economy, it just moves sales and lousy jobs around," the group writes.

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