The measure will provide a $2,000 tax credit for each new cut-and-sew employee hired, and comes a year after Barbour vetoed a similar bill.
Ken Pruett, president of the Mississippi Furniture Association, said he was sitting on pins and needles Thursday – the deadline for the governor’s decision – until he heard that Barbour had signed the bill.
“I knew today was the day and I was a nervous wreck,” he said. “But I feel a lot more relaxed now.”
Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said Thursday that he recently had visited a furniture manufacturing plant in operation on a Saturday.
“I thought the Saturday manufacturing was a good sign,” Nunnelee said. “I think the legislation signed today by the governor will help an important industry and the men and women in that industry. I am glad we were able to reach agreement between the Legislature and the governor.”
The governor vetoed legislation last year that would have provided furniture manufacturers a $2,000 tax credit for every cut-and-sew employee – those workers who stitch the material that eventually covers upholstered furniture.
Barbour said he signed the legislation this year because the “bill puts the emphasis where it ought to be – on job creation. The credits in the legislation encourage employers to bring on new workers, opening up opportunities for more Mississippians.”
House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, the primary author of the legislation, said the changes in the bill were made “to accommodate the governor.”
“We are extremely pleased the governor has endorsed this bill and all the concepts in it,” McCoy added. “We don’t have a doubt that this bill will make a difference immediately.
“We feel the entire industry will be helped a great deal – especially some of the smaller companies, but really all of the companies.”
After working on the legislation for more than four years, the MFA was deeply disappointed in last year’s veto. But members vowed to work harder to answer objections to the bill and came up with a modified plan this year.
“We had a lot of people work on this, a lot of people who went to bat for us,” Pruett said. “We can’t thank them, our legislators and the governor enough for getting this done.”
Overall, the upholstered furniture industry employs more than 47,000 in direct and indirect jobs and is a $6 billion industry, according to a study by the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government.
The study also said the industry was steadily losing jobs to foreign countries where cheaper labor can be found.
The study recommended the tax credit as an incentive to encourage additional employment in the industry.
The governor was lobbied heavily by furniture manufacturing officials and by Northeast Mississippi legislators to sign the bill. Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, met with Barbour on Monday and asked him to sign the legislation.
Under the bill, the state Tax Commission will be responsible for verifying the new hires.
Despite the new credits, Pruett said it’s not time for the furniture industry to relax.
“We’re extremely happy, but we’ve still got a lot of hard work to do to get more furniture jobs back in Mississippi,” he said. “This bill is just one step – one very big, positive step, but our work isn’t over.”