Lawmakers say no to cities’ request for new sales tax

March 17, 2014

Politics

It appears two Mississippi cities will not receive authority to enact a new sales tax.

A Senate chairman said Friday that Mississippi lawmakers won’t authorize Hattiesburg or Greenville to set a 1 percent local sales tax, as the two cities requested.

“We’re not going to do that,” Local and Private Committee Chairman Perry Lee, R-Mendenhall, told The Associated Press.

Legislative leaders believe sales tax proposals should be considered as a matter of general law, not on a city-by-city basis, he said.

The state charges 7 percent sales tax on clothing, groceries and other items. The 1 percent general sales tax requests from Hattiesburg and Greenville came weeks after lawmakers rejected a broader request that was supported by dozens of towns and cities, to let municipal governments set local sales taxes on top of the 7 percent.

The Hattiesburg City Council and Mayor Johnny DuPree were seeking permission for a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a new wastewater treatment system and other infrastructure improvements. They estimated a tax could generate $10 million over 30 years.

Lawmakers are in the final weeks of their three-month session, and are dealing with bills affecting specific cities and counties.

These bills can clear the way for local hotel and motel tourism taxes, or give permission for county supervisors to donate public money to specific charities. They also authorize specific projects, such as a proposal to extend natural gas lines to parts of Kemper County that don’t have them yet.

Legislators will only consider “local and private” bills if the proposals are supported by city or county governing boards.

Several cities already have taxes on hotel and motel stays, and some also have a tax on restaurant meals. Cities are required to return to the Legislature every few years for permission to renew the tourism taxes. For the past several years, lawmakers and governors have required such taxes to be at least potentially subject to approval by local voters. In some cases, a local election is automatically required. In others, residents can petition to have an election. Either way, the tax would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters.

 

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