Lobbyist says eliminating income tax threatens teacher pay, school funding.

Members of the Mississippi Legislature are set to begin hearings today on tax reform options in the state. Included in the discussion will be the possibility for the elimination of the state income tax.

At the center of the hearings will be Speaker Philip Gunn’s proposal he offered during the 2021 session that would raise the state’s sales tax along with other use taxes in an effort to eliminate the income tax while also cutting the grocery tax. The plan essentially seeks to blunt the billion dollar impact to the state’s budget while also shifting to more of a user-based tax structure.

Gunn has been championing his plan across the state in speaking engagements at Rotary Clubs and Republican groups while lawmakers are out of session, which has also caused some media outlets to speculate that the Speaker could be looking to run for higher office in 2023.

Nancy Loome

Ahead of these tax reform hearings, The Parents Campaign, a left-leaning public education lobbying group, has come out against the elimination of the state income tax, saying it threatens teacher pay and school funding, directly taking aim at Gunn’s proposal. Nancy Loome, Executive Director for The Parents Campaign, says the Speaker’s plan is a convoluted proposal to eliminate the income tax while raising other taxes to make up the difference.

“Except that it doesn’t really make up the difference.” Loome opines. “Gunn’s plan will leave public schools, teachers, and other important service providers with less funding than they would have without the tax swap.”

Loome says it is important to note that Gunn’s proposal would not allow teachers, children in public school classrooms, and many other Mississippians to benefit from improvements in the state’s economy.

“State spending will be capped at half the average increase of recent years until the plan is fully phased in – about 10 years in Rep. [Trey] Lamar’s estimation,” Loome says. “That’s at least another decade of low teacher salaries, under-funded public schools, limited pre-k, and gargantuan potholes guaranteed in state law.”

At his press conference on Tuesday, Governor Tate Reeves thanked state Senator Josh Harkins and state Representative Trey Lamar for holding the tax reform hearings. Reeves said he was glad he, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Gunn all agree that elimination of the state income tax would be good for the state.

“I hope that once the hearings are over the Legislature will realize that eliminating Mississippi’s income tax is needed and reducing the tax burden on Mississippians across the board is the best way to ensure our state’s economic prosperity,” Governor Reeves said.

The Governor reiterated his position that the best way forward would be to not propose any tax swaps or other tax increases to achieve the income tax elimination, an open critique of Speaker Gunn’s plan.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m opposed to taking less from your here and taking more from you there. I’m opposed to robbing from Peter to pay Paul,” Reeves said.

Governor Reeves tweeted Wednesday that Republicans should stand strong and focus on eliminating the state income tax without raising other people’s taxes, adding that he knows the far-left Democrats are going to fight the effort.

While The Parents Campaign has not directly commented on the straight elimination of the state income tax, it is safe to say that they would also be opposed to the Governor’s position.

Loome urges her organization’s supporters to weigh in with their legislator.

“If you care about teacher salaries, public school funding, pre-k, public health, child abuse prevention, safe roads and bridges, or myriad other state services, you might want to have a conversation with your legislators about the plan Speaker Gunn is pushing to reduce the state revenue that funds these critical areas,” Loome encouraged.