MINOR – Former Rep. Sledge says Miss. should tax exempted businesses before sales and income taxes

Former Sen. Nevin Sledge of Cleveland has had a pet peeve ever since he served three terms in the Legislature: public or commercial entities that benefit from governmental services that don’t pay their fair share to carry the load of government.

What ticked off Sledge (now 88) was a recent news story telling how the untaxed rural electric co-ops are stashing millions of earnings in investments (some risky) or cash. Sledge said before he left the Legislature in the 1990s he pushed REA’s to pony up in-lieu taxes as the Tennessee Valley Authority does in the dozen counties in North Mississippi to help support county schools and general expenses.

“They (the REAs) did it for awhile until I left the Legislature, then quit,” said the retired Bolivar County automobile dealer and farmer. Sledge doesn’t let privately-owned power companies go unscathed, either. He charges that power companies are allowed to set their own assessments for property taxes. “I learned that from personal experience when I moved my business into a new building and found it assessed 10 times more than the power company in a similar size building,” he said.

Sledge has some timely ideas on how the state could shake a lot more revenue out of taxes in the existing tax structure that have remained unchanged for decades. He advocates lawmakers revisit the existing tax code before eyeing the two usual suspects — income and sales tax. He does think, however, that some of the 400 exemptions from the sales tax need to be eliminated and that the income tax needs some updating.

Bill Minor
1/13/10