New questions arise about the money from Jackson's 1-cent sales - - Jackson, MS

New questions arise about the money from Jackson's 1-cent sales tax

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Millions of dollars are pouring into the city of Jackson after that one-cent sales tax took effect in March. The referendum passed with overwhelming support in January.  

Three months later, the Legislature changed the rules a bit, and folks say that means less money from the tax will go toward infrastructure improvements for an already crippled city.  

While many residents have questions regarding how that money will be spent, some are angry because they believe state lawmakers may have undermined Jackson voters by changing the referendum after the fact.  

State Sen. John Horhn said those allegations are simply not true.  

"The only reason that the measure came back before us is because the city of Jackson asked that it come back before us," Horhn said. "City fathers in earlier administrations had dragged their feet on allowing the people of Jackson to vote on the measure."  

Horhn said the city requested an extra two years be added onto the length of the sales tax period, meaning it would end in 2034. That's because, Horhn said, Jackson leaders waited that long to bring the sales tax referendum to residents for a vote.  

Horhn said the city also wanted to be able to use the revenue from that one-cent increase toward debt service, but other changes came as well.  

"Anytime a controversial bill comes back before the Legislature, you have a chance for people to take potshots at it," Horhn said.  

Now, wholesale sales of light wine, beer and alcoholic beverages and the delivery of personal property within the city are exempt from the tax.  

Horhn said that hasn't affected revenue coming into Jackson.  

"We're still waiting to see what the numbers look like," Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. said.  

Priester said the city council is concerned about those exemptions.  

"Unfortunately the way this tax is collected, you get the numbers from the Department of Revenue, and as the city, we really don't have a way to pull back the curtain and double-check that," Priester said.  

At this point, Priester said the council is working with Jackson State's Institute of Government and Jackson's public works department to hold community meetings on which areas need the greatest repair.  

"We're also going to be engaging with some great engineers to come up with a revenue plan to make sure we can start construction using this money in 2015," Priester said.  

Priester said what lawmakers changed in April doesn't represent a rift between the state Capitol and the Capital City.  

"At the end of the day, we've been given an opportunity with this one-percent sales tax that municipalities all over the state of Mississippi have been asking to get a similar shot at," Priester said.  

Priester said a ten-person commission has been established, but they're still trying to figure out what that commission's role will be.

The city council is waiting on an opinion from the state attorney general on whether the Legislature had the authority to change the sales tax referendum after residents voted on it.  

Horhn said that's a double-edged sword, because if the AG throws out the changes, everything the city wanted, including extending the tax's timeframe, will be gone as well.

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