OUR OPINION: Be cautious handing out tax exemptions

By NEMS Daily Journal

• So far, the Mississippi House in 2013 has approved tax exemptions worth about $50 million per year.

Clashing budget realities and preferences face additional action in the Mississippi Legislature in a disagreement between legislators who live and breathe tax exemptions for every imaginable constituency and those who believe the general fund’s integrity must be maintained if Mississippi has any hope of meeting its financial obligations.
It is difficult to say no when a constituency seeks an exemption on taxes, especially sales taxes and other levees paid in the course of doing business, which eventually becomes a source of revenue to pay the public’s bills.
So far, the Mississippi House in 2013 has approved tax exemptions worth about $50 million per year. If the tax is exempted the general fund gets that much less money. However, exempting the tax does not necessarily lessen what the state owes its employees and contractors, which becomes problematic when bills and are paychecks are due.
Concern about the landslide of exemptions worries Democrats and Republicans alike who foresee perhaps unintended consequences in the long term if the laundry list stands as passed by the House when it reaches the Senate.
It’s probably true that every special and vested interest likes a little tax break when it’s to their advantage, but soon enough, what seemed reasonable in isolation becomes threatening to fiscal stability in the aggregate.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, a Republican from Poplarville, said the tax breaks so far proposed or passed in one chamber total about $50 million.
Frierson, a veteran of many sessions, has said the state is on a tight budget and already is $172 million short of paying for critical needs.
The House needs to learn to say no to groups that want something, whether it’s more state funding or a lower tax bill, Frierson said in an Associated Press article.
Some of the exemptions will be beneficial, but the whole list needs the tempering process of a thorough examination and perhaps a winnowing in the Mississippi Senate.
Colleagues often don’t like having to eliminate the exempting legislation introduced by colleagues in the same chamber, which is one strong argument for the balancing examination of the other chamber.
Mississippi hasn’t recovered from the recession; revenue reduction without a compelling reason is an excessive risk.