PEARL — The Mississippi House has given final approval to a bill that would provide sales tax rebates to the developer of an $80-million outlet mall scheduled to open in November in Pearl.
Senate Bill 2806 passed the House 93-22 and heads to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. It passed the Senate earlier.
The bill would add the phrase “cultural retail” to the definition of tourism projects eligible for a sales tax incentive fund.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, told the House that the Outlets Mall of Mississippi could be considered a tourist attraction because it will have murals and blues monument and it could have live music.
Smith said the mall will have about 80 stores in 325,000 square feet — the largest shopping center in the state. It will be anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, and more than a dozen other companies have announced plans to have stores there, including Nike, J Crew, Under Armour and Chico’s Outlets.
Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, questioned Smith about the logic behind the bill: “We’re offering incentives after the fact to get a business that’s already here?”
Smith said that is correct. He said state assistance will allow the developer to build the outlet mall all at once rather than in three phases. He said the developer would be eligible to receive an 80 percent rebate on sales tax collections from the outlet mall until the developer recovers 30 percent of its own investment in the project. Smith estimated the developer would receive the rebate for about 4 ½ years.
The governor’s staff and the Mississippi Development Authority support the proposed incentive for the outlet mall, Smith said.
Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, questioned why an outlet mall should be given a tax break “when they’re just going to sell clothes and shoes like everyone else.”
Smith defended the proposal.
“It’s a good investment,” he said. “If you don’t want it, don’t vote for the doggone thing.”
Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, pointed out that the outlet mall is being built in Rankin County, which is home to both the governor and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
“This looks like a sweetheart deal,” Hines said.
Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, said the outlet mall could create about 1,600 jobs and attract about 700,000 shoppers a year.