Session spawns tax votes

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Residents of West Point and Tishomingo County will have an opportunity to add a new tax on themselves while residents of Baldwyn and the city of Pontotoc can vote to remove a tax.
During the recently completed legislative session, bills were passed and approved by Gov. Phil Bryant dealing with taxes on restaurants and hotels in various Northeast Mississippi jurisdictions.
Those bills were part of a litany of what is known as local and private legislation passed during the 2012 session. Local and private bills are needed to allow city and county governments to perform functions that they are not already allowed to do by state law.
Often, those local and private bills deal with imposing what are generally referred to as tourism taxes on restaurants and lodging.
Rep. Lester “Bubba” Carpenter, R-Burnsville, said legislation authored by him, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor will give Tishomingo County the opportunity to levy a 1 percent tax on the restaurant sales.
“We will use it (tax revenue) to promote tourism,” Carpenter said, saying the Board of Supervisors has set the election for November. “They are operating on a shoestring budget right now.”
Carpenter said to run an ad in a tourism magazine costs about $2,500, which “eats up the current budget.”
He said the goal is to highlight Pickwick Lake, Tishomingo and J.P. Coleman state parks and the other attractions in the county.
Tishomingo already has a 2 percent tax on revenue from motels and hotels. But when that was put in place in the 1980s, the tax on restaurants was not included.
Carpenter said the governor said he would only support new taxes of 1 percent – opposed to the customary 2 percent that has been passed in previous sessions. Plus, the tax had to be approved by 60 percent of the voters.
The tax is expected to generate $100,000 per year for Tishomingo County.
A similar tax on lodging and restaurants was approved for the city of West Point to be used “for promoting tourism and for parks and recreation.”
The Legislature reauthorized the existing 2 percent tax for the cities of Baldwyn and Pontotoc. In both instances, the tax on lodging and restaurants is to be used to promote tourism.
If 20 percent, or 1,500 registered voters, whichever is less, sign a petition on if the tax in Baldwyn or Pontotoc should be continued, the governing board will have to hold an election.
Other local and private bills approved include:
* Allowing the Tishomingo County Board of Supervisors to contribute to the operation of Crow’s Neck Environmental Center at Bay Springs Lake. The education center, which was operated by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, has been shut down because of the lack of federal funding.
* A bill to allow Lee County and the municipalities of Guntown, Saltillo and Baldwyn to work together to develop the Sand Creek Wastewater Authority. Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, said the legislation was needed to continue to try to develop the regional authority.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com