Senate committee kills Jackson hotel tax

Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Senate committee killed a bill Monday that would’ve allowed Jackson to impose a $1.25-per-day hotel tax to pay for police officers’ pay raises.

The Finance Committee vote came just hours after the House approved the bill, which included provisions that would’ve made most lawmakers exempt from paying the tax.

The bill said anyone staying in a hotel at least 30 days would not have to pay the tax. Many lawmakers live in Jackson hotels during the annual legislative sessions, which last between 90 and 120 days.

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Rep. Steven A. Horne, R-Meridian, voted against the proposed tax and said the exemption for lawmakers was “outrageous and wrong.”

The bill passed the House 97-24.

The bill originally was killed by the House last week. It passed Monday only after the long-term stays were exempted — a provision that Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, said was “emphatically” for legislators.

If the bill had become law, there would’ve to be a local election to impose the new hotel tax, and 60 percent of voters would’ve had to approve it.

Lawmakers have approved several other local hotel and motel taxes this session.

Nearly three dozen uniformed Jackson police officers crowded into the two House balconies to watch the debate.

Rep. Willie Perkins, chairman of the Local and Private Committee, said some lawmakers had come to him to complain about the way they have been treated by the Jackson police officers.

Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, said the city often loses police officers to other cities that pay higher salaries.

“As soon as we get them trained, they go everywhere else to get jobs,” he said.

Rep. Credell Calhoun, D-Jackson, said lawmakers would not have been the only ones helped not having to pay the hotel tax for long-term stays. He said the exemption also would help construction workers in the city for several weeks.

The bill is House Bill 1710.