Education advocates critical of House income tax bill

Updated: Mar. 3, 2021 at 5:52 PM CST
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MOSELLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Eliminating the income tax. Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn said that’s just one of the goals of House Bill 1439.

While it seems like good news for some Mississippians, education advocates are among the bill’s biggest critics. They worried some language in the bill could hurt education and teacher pay in the long run if it becomes law.

“We are looking forward to a day where there will be no more income tax in the state of Mississippi,” Gunn said.

That day will come if the House tax bill is signed into law. Gunn, one of the authors of the bill, said under the proposed plan the first $50,000 of income is exempt immediately.

“So, for 57% of taxpayers in Mississippi, once this bill is passed, they will no longer owe any income tax for the state of Mississippi,” Gunn said.

Gunn said the income tax will be completely phased out over a 10-year period. In year five of that period, Gunn added the threshold raises to $100,000 per taxpayer and $200,000 per household.

“That’s good news, that is great news for all income taxpayers in the state of Mississippi,” Gunn said.

The bill also cuts the 7% grocery tax in half over a period while also increasing the state’s sales tax on many items.

Education advocates and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said that’s not all the proposed tax reform bill includes. Hosemann and education leaders said the House’s teacher pay raise is in the bill.

“COVID got their raise last year that they desperately earned and deserved, and now it’s being included in some kind of tax restructuring over time,” Hosemann said.

Gunn said the tax restructuring will not take money out of education. He said the plan replaces the income tax revenue with the sales tax increase. He said the plan would put money in teacher’s pockets.

“If we eliminate the income tax, that’s $1,500 that that teacher is now paying the state of Mississippi stays in his or her pocket,” Gunn said. “You have a couple who are both teachers, that’s double. On top of that, we’re giving them a $1,000 pay raise in this bill. This is a $1,500 pay raise every year from now on. How in the world could they not be for that?”

Critics of the tax bill, like Mississippi Professional Educators and The Parent’s Campaign, were not available for interviews. They told us because of crucial education deadlines at the capitol, they didn’t have time.

According to The Parent’s Campaign, one of those crucial bills is House Bill 852, the teacher pay raise. They say the bill passed Senate Committees, and still must pass the Senate floor before going back to the house for concurrence or to invite conference.

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