TAX CUT PROPOSAL DIES AT DEADLINE
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The chance of Gov. Kirk Fordice getting any of his tax cut proposal passed during the 1996 legislative session died Tuesday when Sen. Hob Bryan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, failed to take up his own bill.
The reason for not taking up the bill in the Finance Committee, Bryan said, is because of a lack of interest by other members of the Senate.
“There did not seem to be a great deal of support (for the tax cut proposal) and it died on the deadline,” Bryan said after his final Finance Committee meeting before today’s deadline for such proposals to be acted on by one chamber of the Legislature. Tax cut proposals would have to originate in the Senate Finance Committee or the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Charlie Williams, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also said his committee would not take up a tax cut.
He said he hopes to be able to come up with a proposal to cut taxes during the third or fourth year of the Fordice administration. But currently, because of financial commitments made by the Legislature, such as prisons, rural fire trucks, rural county bridges, car tag reductions and others, the money is not available for a tax cut.
Bryan’s bill would have phased out during a four-year period the so-called marriage penalty where two people living together pay less in taxes than a married couple. But Bryan’s bill would have removed the state income tax exemption currently provided to casinos. Casinos do pay a tax on the money they generate from the people who gamble at the facilities, which are located on the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River.
Bryan’s proposal would have gone into effect in January 1997. During budget year 1998, which begins July 1, 1997, it would not have cost the state any money. During budget year 1999, Bryan’s proposal would have taken $10 million from the state and $20 million the following year.
Bryan, D-Amory, admitted that he did not favor his own bill, but said he was trying to provide the governor a vehicle to get part of his tax cut plan approved. For the past three years, the Republican Fordice has lobbied the Legislature for a tax cut.
Of Bryan’s bill, Sen. Richard White, R-Clinton, said he did not agree with placing an additional tax on casinos to make up part of the lost funds from eliminating the marriage penalty.
“The marriage penalty should be abolished,” White said. “I have tried during the six years I have been here. But I don’t think that every time you need extra funds you should go to fees or gambling. That’s kind of bad.”
While White did not favor the income tax on casinos, he stressed that he has consistently voted against gambling.
Johnna Van, a Fordice spokeswoman, did not speak specifically about the Bryan proposal. She did say, “It is unfortunate that lawmakers vote themselves a pay raise and then turn around and deny the citizens of Mississippi a long overdue tax cut.”
On Monday, the House approved a pay increase of $8,400 a year. The measure has not passed the Senate.
Williams, D-Senatobia, said he agreed with Van’s assessment on the pay raise, “except that it will not cost nearly as much as a tax cut.”
Plus, Williams expressed doubt that the about $800,000 needed for the pay raise could be found because of tight budget restraints.
The Fordice tax cut plan would have been a real drain on the state budget. It would cost the state $12.1 million during budget year 1997, which begins July 1, and $83.4 million during a four-year period.
Bryan said the Fordice proposal would have meant an additional $75 during 1997 for the wealthiest Mississippians.