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Why I Believe Citizens Should Have a Say on Taxes
This is a reprint of an article I wrote earlier this summer. I have received several emails from citizens of Southaven asking my opinion on extending the "pennies for parks" tax. This tax is due to repeal this year, and I oppose extending this tax without the consent of the people of Southaven. When this tax was implemented the people voted for it with a repeal date, it is my belief that the tax should repeal, just as the people voted for it to do. If the leadership of Southaven want this tax to continue they should ask the citizens of their city through a vote.
Have you even had an family member come to visit that you thought was only staying for a few days but they seemed to never leave? It seems taxes are much the same. Once a tax comes to visit it never goes away.
One of the surprises awaiting me during the 2016 legislative session was how local municipal taxes work. The House of Representatives Local and Private Legislation Committee handles bills that affect local governments, like HB1585 which authorized Grenada County to contract with the United States and other states to house minimum or medium security offenders, or HB1584 which authorized Oktibbeha County to contribute to Brickfire Project – Day Care Center (if you live in Oktibbeha County you might want to ask why).
The Local and Private Committee also handles bills that allow local governments to implement taxes. One of the most common methods local governments use to raise money is by adding a tax to hotel and restaurant sales. They generally call these “tourism” taxes because they sell these taxes to the local citizens by claiming it only taxes tourist who travel throughout their city. We all know that’s not exactly true, but it close enough to the truth for most politicians.
The process for implementing a special tax begins with the legislature. The local officials, mayor or board of aldermen, must first come to one of their state legislators and ask them to sponsor a bill. An example is SB2048 which authorized the City of Winona to imposition of a tax on restaurants. This bill authorizes the City of Winona to impose a 2% tax on all sales of food and beverages, but first requires the city to hold a referendum where the people of Winona vote FOR THE TAX or AGAINST THE TAX. If the tax passes the legislation requires the tax to automatically repeal on July 1, 2020.
I started this by stating that once a tax comes to visit, it never goes away. But if the people of Winona vote for this tax they can see that in 2020 the tax will repeal or go away, so they think!
This is where the politician gets involved. What will happen during the 2019 legislative session is there will be a bill introduced that extends the repealer for the restaurant tax in the City of Winona. So while the people may vote for this tax expecting it to one day go away, they are sadly mistaken. What happens is behind the scenes, when no one is looking, the local politicians will ask their state legislators to quietly pass a bill that simply keeps the tax going for another 4 years. They will “extend the repealer”. There are local taxes in Mississippi that have been extended many times. Like unwanted guest, they NEVER go away.
During the 2016 legislative session there were eight (8) bills passed that extended the repealer on a tax. These extensions are imposed on the people of that city without their consent. The people do not get to vote on the extension it is simply extended for them.
I opposed and voted against every bill that extended a tax without the consent of the citizens of that city, and I will continue to oppose this practice. It is my belief that if the people want to extend a tax they should be the ones to make that decision, NOT the politicians in Jackson!
You can see all the bills handled by the Local and Private Committee here, http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2016/pdf/house_cmtes/lp.xml