Mississippians deserve real answers. So far, we haven’t gotten them. This afternoon, the House passed HB 1439 on a vote of 85 to 34, voting to strip nearly $2-billion from state coffers by eliminating the state income tax, a move that could result in significant budget cuts in coming years. Legislators clearly have not taken the time to assess the true impact of this bill. Numbers they have sent us simply do not add up.
Here’s what we know:
• HB 1439 is massive and complicated. While it decreases some taxes, such as the tax on groceries, it increases others.
• HB 1439 raises Mississippi’s sales tax to one of the highest in the nation.
• Teachers should be especially incensed by HB 1439. The $1,000 teacher pay raise was added to this bill, a bill that will likely reduce future revenue to a degree that will make it impossible for lawmakers to make good on their promise of a meaningful teacher pay raise in coming years. What’s worse is that the House included a reverse repealer in its stand-alone pay raise bill, which means the House must vote on it again before it can become law. And the House must pass the Senate pay raise before it can become law. So, the House holds all the teacher pay raise cards, and they could be planning to hold the pay raise hostage to passage of HB 1439, a bill that could be devastating to public education.
• Mississippi’s Early Learning Collaborative pre-k program will see its funding cut almost in half by HB 1439, as that program has relied heavily on donations incentivized by income tax credits, credits that will disappear with the elimination of the income tax. More than 1,000 children will likely lose pre-k spots.
• HB 1439 is being rushed through the process with a severe lack of transparency. It was posted online for the first time just minutes before it was taken up in committee and just two days before the floor vote deadline, denying legislators the opportunity to thoroughly vet the 311-page bill. The Ways and Means Committee meeting was not livestreamed on the Legislative YouTube channel, leaving citizens literally in the dark.
• HB 1439 shifts the tax burden away from the wealthiest Mississippians and onto retirees and those with lower incomes by eliminating the income tax and raising the sales tax.
Folks, nobody particularly likes taxes. But we sure do like the things our taxes provide – like our public schools and our public school teachers. There’s nothing wrong with examining our tax structure and making improvements. But that’s just the point. There has been no examination of these sweeping revenue changes. Legislators do not know the real effect this bill will have on the state budget, and indications are that it could be truly devastating. Which is exactly what happened in Kansas and Oklahoma when they went down this road.
The Senate calls itself the deliberative body, and we are counting on senators to be true to that moniker. Let’s slow this train down long enough to keep it from going off the rails – with our state budget and our public schools in tow. It’s the responsible thing to do.
ASK YOUR SENATOR TO VOTE NO on HB 1439; take time to thoroughly study the proposed tax cut and understand fully the impact on future teacher pay and school funding.
Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770
We’ve come too far to go backward now. Ask your senator to take a truly deliberative approach, learn the facts, include Mississippi citizens in the debate, and come up with a real plan to move us toward a brighter future.
REAL TALK this week: Don’t forget to register for our REAL TALK virtual speaker series! It begins Thursday, Feb. 25 at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom with speakers Sen. Angela Turner Ford, Chair, Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus; Rep. Robert Johnson, House Minority Leader; and Sen. Derrick Simmons, Senate Minority Leader. Submit your education-related questions for our speakers by replying to this email or dropping them in the chat box during the sessions.
Our children are counting on us, and together, we’ve got this!