JACKSON – Mississippi will be a state of 3 million people b

AUTHOR: MINOR

JACKSON – Mississippi will be a state of 3 million people by 2010, and 2.8 million in the 2000 census, says the state’s research agency.

Rankin County will hit 125,000 in population, Madison County over 90,000, and DeSoto will reach 117,000 by 2010. Meantime, Hinds, the state’s largest, will show little growth.

Those are the population projections made by the Center for Policy Research and Planning at the state College Board in its latest biannual Economic Review and Outlook for state growth in upcoming years.

Estimating population growth is not just a guessing game with the centerit crunches real numbers of births and deaths from the Department of Health, as well as migration numbers which the U.S. Bureau of Census furnishes from Internal Revenue information not available to the general public.

While Mississippi is one of the Sunbelt states, and seems to be growing in population, it is not picking up people as fast as some others in the region, particularly Georgia which is growing like gangbusters. One quick answer is that Georgia’s job production is a lot faster than ours.

Madison and Rankin counties, which have been siphoning off population from Hinds (Jackson particularly) for the past decade, will apparently continue that trend in the next two censuses according to senior demographer Barbara Logue at the Center for Research. Madison’s population will be up 43.3 percent by 2000, tapering off by 2010. Rankin will be up 27 percent in the next census and slow to 13 percent by a decade later.

DeSoto, the fast-growing suburb of Memphis, is projected to increase 45.8 percent by 2000, then taper off to 18 percent a decade later. Part of DeSoto’s growth is attributed to casino workers living in the county who commute to neighboring Tunica County.

The average Mississippian perhaps thinks that state taxes are all that operates the machinery of state government. Wrong.

In 1996, over $15 billion in federal funds came down that were spent in this state, $2.8 billion of it going directly to state and local governments. Significantly, the influx of federal money was $6 billion more than Mississippians paid last year in federal taxes and fees, the Center for Research pointed out.

As could be expected, the bulk ($8.2 billion) of federal funds in 1996 were paid to individual Mississippians in the form of Social Security, Medicare, and other such payments including earned income credits, food stamps, and retirement and disability programs.

Although federal revenues coming down to Mississippi has declined in rate the past several years as certain federal spending programs were trimmed, the state’s increase in the share of federal funds is still running ahead of the inflation rate.

Since the upcoming 1998 Legislature is likely to again face pressure for cutting Mississippi’s income tax, the newly-issued Economic Review by the research center contains some valuable nuggets on the issue of tax reform.

It’s no surprise that sales taxes, the most regressive taxes, still bear the biggest burden of state revenue – 55 percent of the General Fund. What should matter is: Who shoulders the biggest share of paying the sales tax?

The story here, essentially, is: folks making lower incomes. Excluding elderly married couples, the 20 percent of Mississippians in the lowest income group – $18,000 or less – pay 8.9 percent of their total income in sales taxes.

In contrast, those making $60,000 to $98,000 pay only 3.5 percent of their incomes in sales taxes.

That’s why they call the sales tax a regressive tax – the greater one’s income the smaller percentage of your income goes to pay the sales tax. But the income tax is what irks most people – largely because it has more visibility, coming around every April 15.

Mississippi’s income taxes on both individuals and corporations are among the lowest in the entire southeast. Here’s a nugget: the individual income tax in Mississippi accounts for two-thirds of the total income taxes collected. Of course, Florida is always cited as a state which has no individual income tax. However, it has a whale of a corporate tax.

What lawmakers may want to ponder is that the ratio of general sales taxes paid relative to rising incomes in Mississippi has steadily declined since 1987. As the research center’s analysis points out, this means that while Mississippians are making more, personal expenditures are switching to services and investments which carry a lower tax rate.

Bill Minor is a syndicated columnist who has covered Mississippi politics for 50 years.