By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE SPRINGS – High corporate tax rates threaten Mississippi’s ability to attract and retain industries essential to its economic survival, said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, after touring the region’s new Toyota plant Monday.
Wicker spent about an hour at the facility, which started production in October and manufactures Corollas, in part because he wasn’t able to do so at last year’s grand opening. He had been in Washington at the time.
“It’s impressive,” the Tupelo Republican said. “I’m impressed with the care they take to make sure their workers are able to work in a safe environment. And that safety results, I believe, in high quality.”
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi employs 2,000 people, with hundreds more working for its suppliers. Together, the companies have been a boon to the region, which has suffered economically from job losses in the furniture industry and other manufacturing.
Wicker said he’s hopeful Northeast Mississippi’s strong workforce and friendly business climate draws more industry like Toyota, but the country’s high corporate tax rate threatens such a future.
“Since April 1, because of expiring tax provisions, our nation has the highest corporate taxes in the world,” Wicker said. “We can’t compete if we allow that to stand.”
Wicker said he and others in Congress are working to remedy the situation, but he expressed doubt it’ll happen before November based on comments made by the chair of the Senate Budget Committee.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., reportedly said he wants to wait until after the election before tackling that issue.
In addition to lower corporate taxes, Wicker said the region would benefit from a boost in domestic oil production. He supports the Keystone Pipeline project and said it will lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil by about a seventh of its current consumption rate.
It also could translate into lower prices at the gas pump.
“We’re going to power airplanes, trucks and cars with … oil for decades to come,” Wicker said. “We need to change our policies” by acknowledging that reality while still pursuing alternative energies.”
Wicker has been in the Senate since 2008 and is running for re-election to a full six-year term in November against Democrat Albert N. Gore Jr. of Starkville.