Gunn speaks on legislative priorities heading into 2021

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With less than a month until Mississippi lawmakers convene for the 2021 Legislative Session, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn discussed on Monday what the legislature will be prioritizing come January 5.

According to Gunn, continuing to phase out the state’s income tax and move towards “a stronger system” will be at the top of the agenda.

“During the summertime, I held a series of meetings. We brought in experts from Washington—the tax foundation and others—and discussed just basic tax policy,” Gunn explained. “Their advice was, to the extent that you can, let’s try and make your economy based upon user fees and sales taxes and move away from taxes on productivity.”

The elimination of the state’s income tax was also recently recommended by Governor Tate Reeves, who explained that it would help attract people and businesses to Mississippi.

Currently, Mississippi’s income tax consists of three marginal rates of 3 percent, 4 percent, and 5 percent. However, Gunn envisions a full disintegration of the 3 percent income tax rate by the end of 2022.

“We are either in the last year or the next to last year of phasing that out,” he said. “For everybody in the state of Mississippi, the first $5,000 of income will be exempt from taxation. Now, the next level, of course, would be the 4 percent bracket, and if we can phase that one out, then the first $10,000 of everyone’s income would be exempt from taxation.”

Another priority for legislators will be an alteration to the process of occupational licensing.

“I think we have way too many licenses in this state that require people to jump through a hurdle in order to engage in the profession that they want to engage in,” Gunn said. “I want to look at that and try to and look at ways that we can get the government out of everybody’s lives.”

Gunn also said that they will revisit two workforce development bills that were previously vetoed by Governor Reeves during the 2020 Legislative Session.

“We brought forward a couple of bills last year that were, I thought, really good bills. They were vetoed based upon some inaccurate information of belief that they would some way affect federal dollars,” he stated. “We are going to come back again and hopefully get those bills passed.”

Following his decision to veto said bills back in July, Reeves wrote the following within a Facebook post:

“I had to veto one bill that I love. The intent is perfect—allowing skills training instead of traditional education. It just goes a little bit too far by conflicting federal law. Because of that, it put federal dollars for skills training at risk. I will work hard with legislators to get it done in a few months! Great goal—just needs a few tweaks and we can get it done!”

Optimism aside, time has shown that Reeves and chamber leaders have not been too willing to work together, especially considering that Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White are currently suing the first-term governor over his partial vetoes.

As of now, a decision by the Hinds County Chancery Court, in which Reeves’ vetoes were ruled “unconstitutional,” has been appealed by the governor. Whether or not the Mississippi Supreme Court will make a decision regarding the appeal prior to the start of the legislative session is yet to be known.

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