Furniture perks await Barbour

TUPELO – A bill offering much sought-after incentives for the furniture industry sailed through both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature last month, and now it’s up to Gov. Haley Barbour to sign it into law.
Senate Bill 3197, which was the final bill that was sent to Barbour earlier in the week, authorizes a job tax credit for upholstered furniture manufacturing companies.
Laura Hipp, Barbour’s deputy press secretary, said Thursday said “he’s reviewing the bill.”
The $2,000 credit applies to full-time employees working at least 30 hours a week, and would be applied annually for 10 years.
Supporters of the bill, championed by the Mississippi Furniture Association, say the tax credit will save about 4,500 cut-and-sew jobs in the state and potentially bring back another 1,500 jobs.
An extensive study by the Franklin Furniture Institute and the John C. Stennis Institute of Government, both located at Mississippi State University, projects that the tax credit would cost the state about $14 million.
However, Stennis Institute research analyst Judith Phillips said that the result from workers keeping their jobs and continuing to contribute to the overall economy would mean a net positive tax revenue of more than $4 million for the state.
On Thursday, MFA board members said they appreciated the Legislature’s unanimous approval of the legislation and eagerly anticipated Barbour’s signature.
“We’ve had so many people work so hard for us and to get the message out about the importance of the furniture industry,” Pruett said. “We appreciate everything they’ve done, and continue to do, to keep our industry viable and to keep Mississippians working.”
Some 8,000 furniture industry jobs have been shed in the state since 2000. However, the $4 billion industry continues to be among the largest in the state, with some 20,000 workers.
“We need to do all we can to save jobs,” Pruett said, “and this is a great big step in helping to do just that.”
During House debate last month, questions were asked about the impact of a tax credit on already declining state tax revenue.
House Ways and Means Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, said “we’re trying to save some 4,500 jobs. If we don’t do something, we are going to lose those 4,500 jobs, the sales tax, and the income those jobs generate. We’re going to lose a pile of money.”

Dennis Seid/Daily Journal