By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Gov. Haley Barbour is mulling the furniture tax credit bill that is making its way through the Legislature for a second straight year, but didn’t indicate Tuesday whether or not it would get his stamp of approval.
He vetoed a similar measure last year.
This year’s legislation, slightly tweaked from the previous version, “is better than last year’s bill,” he said. But, he added, “let me see it in detail.”
The bill has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.
In the new legislation, a $2,000 tax credit will be given only to new cut-and-sew jobs and does not include existing jobs.
Also, employees are required to work 35 hours in order for companies to get the break, instead of 30 hours as originally proposed.
Barbour said figuring out how best to help the furniture industry is difficult.
“There are companies that are expanding and adding jobs, while there are others who are struggling and shedding jobs,” he said. “The state isn’t in the business of picking winners and losers. But we all benefit if we had a better grasp of what the companies who are expanding and adding jobs are doing.”
Barbour said the state doesn’t mind helping the furniture industry – and does so when it can. He said helping companies get Foreign-Trade Zone manufacturing status is one major program his administration has supported.
He also said that other industries in the state, such as timber, are suffering, too.
In his veto last year, Barbour said he was opposed to singling out one industry and giving it incentives.
Still, he said he would review the bill carefully.
“We’re certainly hopeful he’ll sign the bill and stop the hemorrhaging of furniture jobs,” said Mississippi Furniture Association President Ken Pruett. “We are seeing some expansions, but they’re not making up, and we don’t expect them to make up, for the jobs we’ve already lost.
“We think anything we can do to save these cut-and-sew jobs, we should do.”