October 30, 2020

Reeves: Just because Mississippi has money, does not mean spend it

JACKSON — Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday the $85.5 million higher than anticipated Mississippi tax collections is not “an excuse to spend, spend, spend.”

The state budget year started in July. From then through December, state revenues were $85.5 million higher than they were during the same period a year earlier, according to the Legislative Budget Office . That is a 3.3 percent increase.

Reeves said most categories of tax collections, including sales taxes and individual and corporate income taxes, are seeing increases.

“This is in spite of, or some of us would argue because of, the largest tax cut in Mississippi history being implemented as we speak,” Reeves said at a public policy forum in Jackson. He said the increases in revenue should not be “an excuse to spend, spend, spend.”

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in 2016 signed into law a package of tax cuts that were projected to reduce state revenue by $415 million over 12 years. It included the phasing out of the corporate franchise tax, a reduction in the personal income tax and a reduction in self-employment taxes.

Reeves, who is running for governor this year to try to succeed the term-limited Bryant, said he expects most state agencies will receive about the same amount of money in the coming year that begins July 1 as they did in the current year. He said he expects lawmakers to fund a request by the state pension system and to approve pay raises for teachers and state employees.

Reeves, who presides over the state Senate and is one of the top budget writers, did not offer details of how large those raises could be. Legislators usually set final budgets in late March or early April.

“I’m not afraid to say ‘no,’ sometimes even to my friends,” Reeves said. “And I have no plans to change just because this is an election year.”

Reeves is in the final year of his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer. He will face first-term state Rep. Robert Foster of Hernando in the Republican primary. Fourth-term Attorney General Jim Hood of Houston and retired Jackson State University employee Velesha P. Williams of Flora have announced they will seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

Candidates’ qualifying deadline is March 1. Party primaries are in August, and the general election is in November.