Higgins: Tax legislation could help area development

February 28, 2013 10:06:19 AM

Sarah Fowler - [email protected]


With a possible $50 million worth of tax cuts on the line, LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins is hoping some of those proposed cuts will positively affect the Golden Triangle. The Mississippi House has passed multiple bills with millions of dollars worth of tax cuts. Those bills are now being presented to the Senate, with some speculation the cuts won't make it off the Senate floor.  


Higgins said that while he is optimistic, if the cuts don't pass it will be business as usual for local industries.  


"If they don't pass, the industries here will be operating just the way they have been," Higgins said.  


Higgins referenced a bill which would reduce the current 1.5 percent sales tax to zero for manufacturers.  


"If it doesn't pass, Weyerhaeuser, Eka Chemicals, Severstal, they'll just be playing by the same rules they have always played with," he said.  


However, Higgins said that if the bill does pass, those tax cuts would allow current industry and future entities to be more competitive. 


"They'll still be susceptible to energy rate increases, but it will soften that margin," he said.  


But he feels some legislators are hesitant about passing the tax cuts because they are afraid of how the cuts will affect other aspects of the state's budget.  


"There's never enough money to go around," he said. "It's always the issue that comes up. If we give these breaks, which reduce our revenue, that subsequently reduces our amounts to fund other things." 


But the proposed tax cuts could be beneficial, luring new industries to Mississippi and creating jobs and increased revenue. 


"Some states just say manufacturers are exempt from sales tax," Higgins said. "Water has a sales tax and electricity has a sales tax. Depending on how much a company uses, that can be a big number." 


Higgins said three of TVA's biggest clients are in Lowndes County, with the fourth just over the county line.  


"Eka Chemicals, Weyerhauser, Severstal, Tronox -- TVA's four biggest power users are in our region. Obviously it's important," he said. "It may not sound like a lot for a 1.5 decrease on electricity but it's like you at your house or at my businesses -- every little bit helps." 


Regardless of whether the tax cuts pass the Senate, Higgins feels Mississippi needs to maintain a competitive edge when it comes to courting industry.  


"Generally, I think it's a true statement that the more competitive we can make our state on taxes for business, the more likely we are to get businesses to expand or locate here."

Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.