Wednesday’s deadline for floor action on bills that originated in the opposite chamber brought mixed results for legislation aimed at the state’s business community.
Of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s legislative agenda, only a bill that would provide a 25 percent rebate to businesses that contract with one of the state’s colleges or universities for qualified research remains alive. The Strengthening Mississippi Academic Research Through (SMART) Business Act would cap rebates at $1 million per business and $5 million per fiscal year. It died in the 2012 session. It has been sent to conference.
Other bills Hosemann supported – tax credits for businesses relocating their headquarters to Mississippi, expanding existing headquarters and an employee pass-through tax credit – all died for the second consecutive session.
Already signed by Gov. Phil Bryant into law is legislation that that will provide $8 million in additional money to the Workforce Enhancement Training Fund. The WET fund is used by community colleges to provide training for jobs and skills that employers have identified as being in demand.
The money will be generated by a one-year decrease in the unemployment tax businesses pay and a corresponding increase in the WET fund tax. The net effect on employers who pay each tax will be neutral. Also contributing to the additional job training money is $14 million in fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits the Mississippi Department of Employment Security has gotten back.
Bryant signed the bill Wednesday. The measure was supported by the Mississippi chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Legislation directed at the Mississippi Development Authority had mixed results. A bill requiring the agency to issue an annual report of the tax breaks and other incentives it provides to businesses died. Executive director Brent Christensen has said that’s something the agency plans to do anyway, starting with the one issued late last year. Also dead is a bill that would have authorized the MDA to periodically hire consultants to assess the incentives it issues.
Still alive is a measure that would divert money from an MDA fund established to lure Toyota to a workforce training grant fund.
The next hurdle still-active bills face is a conference report deadline on April 4.