NOTE: Our state lawmakers are invited to submit articles for publication on DeSoto County News. Content will not be edited, although we reserve the right for minor adjustments to meet with AP Style, spelling and punctuation corrections. This submission is provided by District 25 State Rep. Dan Eubanks and we thank him for this report back to his district.
By State Rep. Dan Eubanks, District 25 (R-Walls)
Last week (1/10-1/14) in the Mississippi legislature, three major pieces of legislation were passed in their respective chambers. These bills will now continue on through the legislative process.
Senate Bill 2095 passed the Senate and will be transmitted to the House. This bill will be responsible for establishing a Medical Marijuana program in the state, after Initiative 65 was struck down earlier in the year by the Mississippi Supreme Court. This 450+ page bill has not been without its share of controversy. Senate members as a whole, didn’t even have access to the bill until a few days before the vote. After much deliberation, the bill passed 45 to 5. There is a possibility that the House will take it up later this week.
In the House, two major pieces of legislation passed, and will be transmitted to the Senate. The first was House Bill 531. This bill, if ultimately enacted into law, will eventually eliminate the state income tax. Under this plan, each individual Mississippian will initially receive a $40,000 exemption to their income (or $80,000 per married couple). The remaining taxes for those households making over their allotted exemption, will continue to pay taxes at the 5% rate. Those still paying income tax would ultimately be phased out over the following decade based on state growth and revenue triggers. In addition to the exemption, individual car tags would be cut in half, and taxes on groceries would ultimately be reduced to 4%. To offset some of the lost revenue to the state from this plan, the state’s sales tax would increase from 7% to 8.5%, which is still less than our surrounding states. For the majority of Mississippians, the savings through tag and grocery tax reductions, along with greater income exemptions, will more than offset any increase resulting from sales taxes. The bill passed 96 to 12.
The third major piece of legislation taken up for the week, was also passed in the House, and will now be taken up by the Senate. House Bill 530, is a teacher pay raise bill. This bill would raise teacher and teacher assistant pay above our surrounding states. It would also raise starting pay above the national average. If HB 530 makes it into law, it would be the largest teacher pay increase in Mississippi’s history. The bill does however come with a pretty hefty price tag, almost a quarter billion dollars in additional expense to the taxpayers per year. Several in the House argued that they would like to see every working Mississippian receive a pay raise through the elimination of the state income tax. With the increased cost that this bill would cause to state government, it is argued that future triggers that would fully eliminate the income tax would be put in jeopardy. The bill passed 114 to 6.