Talk of tax decreases is foolish

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016

On Tuesday, the legislative chambers in Jackson were filled with state representatives and senators as the 2016 session opened for business. This is a special session as it’s an extra 60 days longer than the usual 90-day session. But in other ways, this session is beginning like any other—namely with talk of tax cuts. It’s been reported that the state is facing a $53 million revenue deficit through the first six months of this fiscal year and despite that, Reeves is again proposing to cut state income.

We hear a lot of talk by politicos that government should be run like a business, but I don’t know of any successful business that gets rid of money in the face of diminished revenue.

But never mind that. On Tuesday, the Daily Journal reported, “Reeves indicated that he would again propose a package similar to what he tried to pass in 2015 – a 10-year phased-in plan costing the state about $385 million.”

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Specifically, Reeves is proposing to cut back income and franchise tax, which might sound good if you own a business and pay income tax. If you don’t own a business or are too poor to pay income tax well, you’ll still pay the same fuel taxes and the same sales taxes you’ve always paid. In fact, if Reeves’ tax plan gets the go-ahead, there’s a possibility your taxes will actually increase at a local level. For instance, if the state’s budget shrinks, there may be less money for CDBG grants—necessary state funds used to repair local infrastructure. With less grant money, we can expect cities to rely more heavily on usage fees and taxes to make ends meet. If Reeves has his way, we can assume the state will once again not fully fund public education, meaning school districts will be forced to rely more heavily on local property tax revenue. And so on.

Like most people, I don’t love paying taxes. Like most people, I wish groceries cost less. But groceries are necessities and I’d rather pay for them than do without. Taxes, too, should be used for necessities—and in Mississippi, they mostly are. In a state that underfunds everything from law enforcement to roads and bridges to public education, it’s hard to make an argument for wasted spending. Heck, I for one would be willing to pay more taxes for better public services.

Or, if we can’t do that, we could at least buy Reeves a clue.