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Business issues demand attention

As I See It

The election season is upon us. We have a good field of gubernatorial candidates from which to choose. I’m sure that all of them would like to have the support of the business community. There are several business issues I think worthy of consideration and debate. Though these represent my personal views, I suspect they are widely held throughout the business community.

THE JOB OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPER

We have enjoyed an uninterrupted decade of economic prosperity in Mississippi. The “Mississippi Miracle” is a reality. In addition to a good general economy, we have enjoyed an unprecedented migration of new industries and jobs into Mississippi. Tax revenues are up and roads are wider. Mississippi is leaving its longtime position at the bottom on the national economic ladder.

Much of the credit for our economic prosperity should go to Jimmy Heidel and company. As head of the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, Jimmy has built an effective organization that has well served our state. Unfortunately, his is a political job which means we may have to start over with a new, untested political appointee after the upcoming election.

Many states have recognized the importance of maintaining continuity in their economic development effort and have changed the top job from a political appointment to a professional position. I think we should do the same thing. Continuing our economic progress is much too important to risk on handing off the ball to a novice political appointee. I would like to see Heidel and company continue into the next administration and beyond.

INVENTORY TAX

The Mississippi inventory tax is detrimental to business and should be repealed. Penalizing businesses for not selling their merchandise is a double whammy. First of all, the stuff is not sold and therefore no revenue has been generated from which to pay a tax. Secondly, the general concept of penalizing businesses for having inventory on hand is difficult to justify.

Debates on this issue usually have defenders saying that the inventory tax collected is substantial and would, by necessity, need to be collected from somewhere else. This is pretty poor justification for keeping an unfair tax which penalizes the golden goose that is laying our economic eggs. Down with the inventory tax and into the Boston harbor with it!

INCOME TAX CUT

Here’s a political hot potato for the summer. Just mention a tax cut and taxpayers get visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Well, they better be little, bitty sugar plums and not many of ‘em.

In my experience, the average Mississippi individual taxpayer pays about $400-$500 a year in state income tax. Therefore, a 10% tax cut would amount to less than a buck a week! That’s one dollar per week!

Is it possible that a real conservative could oppose a tax cut? It is happening before your very eyes. Compared to many other states, Mississippi income tax is small. In my view, the system is not broke and we shouldn’t fix it just to make hay during this political season.

WORKFORCE TRAINING

We took a strong, unrelenting editorial position during the legislative session that workforce training should be turned over to the community colleges. A little was accomplished, much is left undone. The business community recognizes the importance of training and re-training and upgrading Mississippi’s adult workforce.

Community colleges have a successful track record on this playing field and should be given a bigger piece of the training dollar pie. Candidates would likely capture the attention of the business community if they would recognize this issue and take a stand on it.

THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT

Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

— DEUTERONOMY 5:16

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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