The big question is what will the Legislature do with the additional revenue from online use taxes? There are calls to apply it to infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Right now, the use tax revenues mostly go to the general fund. What about municipalities?
In recent years, the Legislature has helped the craft brewing industry, authorizing the sale of high gravity beers (those with higher alcohol content) and allowing sales of beer to those who visit breweries. This year, it was the turn of the craft distillers and the Legislature’s ability to pass legislation to help small business owners seeking to make their living in distilling and brewing should be saluted.
Every year, the Mississippi Legislature approves more local taxes on hotels and restaurants, which are renewed with little to no opposition. The governor has signed 78 percent of all reauthorization bills in the last five legislative session. Is that money being well spent?
Cities and counties continue to collect an ever-enlarging amount of tourism taxes on restaurants and hotels. Since 2004, the amount collected by the Mississippi Department of Revenue and distributed to the taxing jurisdictions has increased 151 percent. This is due to the number of localities collecting the taxes, which has increased from 59 to 83.
Changing the law to disburse use tax revenue to cities and counties could be the first step in a bigger conversation on how to modernize the state’s tax code.
The state auditor needs to be given the statutory authority to investigate any non-profit organization receiving taxpayer funds. The taxpayer funds given to non-profits and all associated documentation should be subject to open records laws.