The Mississippi Film Office is a buzz about a new series of slasher films shooting at our state Capitol featuring Gov. Phil Bryant as Freddy Krueger, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn as Ghostface, and Lt. Gov. Reeves as the GingerDead Man.
No worries, there will be no blood. This Tax Slasher production is brought to you by those jockeying for your vote this fall and your affection for election years to come.
Lots of green is being promised to the taxpayers of Mississippi. We won’t see red until programs and services end up being cut, if that ever really happens. Our Republican leadership has proven adept at considering all sorts of ways to cut taxes without actually cutting expenses. They just continue to pass those along to us in other forms.
There is a running joke that the most dangerous organization in Mississippi, at least for three months out of the year, is our state legislature. Sadly, no one should be laughing anymore. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Legislature whipping up a frenzy among Mississippi’s voters as opposed to responding with responsible representation and legislation.
This all started when Gov. Bryant said he wanted to reduce the state income tax for people earning less than $50,000 a year. That, of course, went nowhere because Bryant and his supporters have shown they couldn’t care less about folks earning under $50,000 a year.
Then Lt. Gov. Reeves offered to phase out the business franchise tax and a portion of the state income tax and other tax cuts designed specifically for wealthy family and friends.
Not to be outdone, Speaker Gunn of the House of Representatives has proposed to phase out the state income tax over the next 10 years. All of this, of course, gives new meaning to “No taxation without representation.” There’s plenty of political posturing in Jackson, but little to no representation.
Gunn’s proposal may not be about this election year. Yes, Ghostface could be looking to challenge the GingerDead Man for the Governor’s seat in 2019. He is in better shape, better looking, and believes he has a better brain. And he may, but on the surface his income tax proposal certainly seems as thoughtless as another Friday the 13th movie. Gunn has tried to spin his proposal of late, hinging his income tax cut on the state’s ability to meet its budget. But given how such proposals have busted budgets in other states, it is foolishness for a state like ours to even consider it.
“There’s never been anything like what’s going on this year,” said Senate Democratic Leader Hob Bryan of Amory, who has been around for quite some time. Bryan wants to offer a constitutional amendment to prohibit the Legislature from convening during election years.
House Democratic Leader Bobby Moak gave his Democratic members cover during debate on Speaker Gunn’s bill. Moak called it “…an election year stunt” by those hoping to have Democrats provide a “no” vote on the income tax cut. Moak, like everyone else, could foresee the GOP election postcard which reads, ‘Your Democratic candidate voted against giving you a tax break!’
Moak was surely proud as Democrat after Democrat offered a series of amendments during the debate to fund schools and eliminate more regressive state taxes. Many of those, like the grocery tax, were designed specifically to wring funds from the poor and middle class.
All of those amendments were defeated along party lines and those votes were recorded. If Democrats decide to play the role of hero, instead of their usual mealy-mouthed version of Republican Light, they could easily point out how the Republican leadership in our state is only interested in cutting taxes when it benefits the Hoity Toity and not the Hoi Polloi.
If Reeves wants to help businesses in our state, he should explore doing away or significantly reducing the inventory tax, an incredibly regressive tax on business and one, in particular, that has kept manufacturing companies from locating to our state and has others trying to get out. If Gunn were a responsible House Speaker, he could reconsider Bryant’s plan to eliminate income taxes for those making less than $50,000 a year. It’s not much, but it will put money in the hands of those who could use it most and that would benefit all of us in the long run.
We are linked in every way to the weakest and those with the least in our state and we must work together so that we can all succeed. That is what our legislators must address. How do we provide better than adequate education, training, and opportunities? How do we really assist and encourage those living at or below the poverty level and so many others who are just barely getting by?
Sure it’s an election year, but the GOP has got to stop offering up the usual hate and fear-based responses when talking about the poverty problem in our state, particularly responses like those of Republican House Member Gene Alday of Clarksdale, who is obviously auditioning for the role of “Pinhead” in Mississippi’s new slasher series. His admittedly regrettable comments are symptomatic of a terrible infection that has festered far too long. Mississippi is better than that and it’s time for Mississippians to show it.
Do we need to reconsider our state tax code? Absolutely. It is past time. Could the current leadership get ‘er done? Yes. In fact, this might just be the best group to try. But Gunn, Tater, and Bryant better start thinking about everyone’s future because their present course is less than inspiring and painful to watch.
» David Dallas is a political writer. He worked for former U.S. Sen. John Stennis and authored Barking Dawgs and A Gentleman from Mississippi.
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