Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said when lawmakers gavel in on Tuesday, January 5 they plan to move forward with work as usual. This comes despite comments from Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann that there should be a delay due to increased COVID-19 numbers.
“Our plan is to move forward. I recognize that the Lt. Governor has floated the idea. I respect his opinion and I obviously work closely with him, have had conversations with him about that but I have not heard from any of my legislators except one, who wants to do that. I have not heard from any Senator that wants to do that,” said Gunn on Supertalk Radio. He went on to add that all House members he has spoken with want to move forward with session.
He said there are many reasons he does not see the need in a delay. One of which, is that the “work of the people,” as Gunn put it, needs to get done. He said members been able to do the work in a safe manner when they have gathered and they will continue those safety measures going into the 2021 session.
Gunn also said Dr. Dobbs has not instructed leadership to suspend session at this time.
Looking at his priorities moving into the session, Gunn said doing away with the 4 percent income tax is among them.
“This is a conversation we’ve been having for about four years now trying to evaluate a number of ways to improve not just income tax but the entire tax structure,” said Gunn.
He said roughly four years ago there were meetings held to discuss general tax policy, what is good and what is bad. He said most economists in the field will tell you not to punish productivity, like income, with a tax. The ideal is a tax structure based on sales tax and user fees.
He said in the time since those meetings they have been looking at how to move as much as possible away from an income tax to a user tax system.
Gunn said before any changes are made they will have to evaluate what those income tax dollars are used for and how they will be adequately replaced. He said he is skeptical that this is an undertaking that will be completed in just one year.
While the pandemic did throw priorities and goals off course, Gunn said he is proud that prior to COVID-19 Mississippi was in the best financial state has been in in a very long time.
“We had funded all the state agencies, we were able to fix the PERS problem,” said Gunn. “We were able to fill the rainy day fund, we did all the financial obligations of government and had $200 million extra in the bank. I credit that to good conservative decisions that have been made over the last nine years.”
While the pandemic did cause a deficit of $240 million to the state, with those dollars in reserve it was absorbed easier than it could have been.
Gunn said he is most looking forward to continuing conservative budgeting going into the 2021 session to ensure Mississippi is in a healthy financial state.