Our View: New taxes for local projects likely to get a lot easier next year

November 8, 2018 10:44:50 AM

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In normal years, the idea of asking the Mississippi Legislature to increase a tax would be about as logical as asking Gov. Phil Bryant to speak at a Black Lives Matter rally. 

 

As a rule, it just ain't happening. 

 

Starkville wants to build a sports complex at Cornerstone Park, which would carry a price tag of anywhere from $18.5 to $20 million. 

 

Where would the money come from? 

 

During Tuesday's meeting, the Starkville Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to ask the Legislature for a 1 percent increase to both the city's food/beverage and hotel taxes, which are currently at 2 percent. They've also asked the Legislature for $1 million in what might be considered seed money for the project. 

 

The tax increase would expire after 20 years, according to the plan. 

 

Normally, an increase in any tax would be DOA in Jackson. 

 

But when the Legislature convenes in January, the legislators are likely to be far more inclined to get behind tax increases that support big, high-profile projects around the state. It happens every four years, when legislators are eager to curry favor with voters. It's a lot easier to get re-elected when you can point to a big project and take credit for it. 

 

In an election year, many legislators are inclined to lay aside their philosophical opposition to tax increase to achieve a more practical and personal goal - staying in office. 

 

Even in an election year, asking for more tax money is no sure thing though. 

 

While Starkville will ask for increases in their food/beverage and hotel taxes, Lowndes County and Columbus will be asking the Legislature to restore the 2 percent restaurant tax it fumbled away in the last session - a move that cost the county a cool $2 million - and will also ask for a law that closes a tax loophole that allows businesses located on airport property to be exempt from taxes, something that cost the county and its school district roughly $1 million. 

 

Columbus will also ask for bond money to help complete the city's Terry Brown Amphitheater while they are at it. 

 

In normal years, it might be a tough sale. 

 

But this is not a normal year. 

 

And local governments know it.