March 15, 2019 10:57:59 AM
Not all 1-percent restaurant taxes are the same, apparently, although we have yet to learn why.
This week, two 1-percent restaurant taxes proposed by local governments are being considered by the Legislature.
The city of Starkville is asking for an additional 1-percent to be added to its current 2-percent restaurant tax. That extra money would provide funds for the city's recreation department, most of it devoted to building a new sports complex, which is estimated to cost between $18 million and $22 million.
That bill has passed the House and is currently in the Senate's Local & Private Committee. By all accounts, the bill seems like to pass.
Meanwhile, Columbus officials are awaiting word on the fate of its own 1-percent restaurant tax, money earmarked to provide operations funding for the yet-to-be-completed Terry Brown Amphitheater.
From what we are hearing from Jackson, the prospects for the tax are grim.
Rep. Gary Chism, (R, Columbus) has said he'll help get the bill out of the House, but will oppose it on the floor. Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Sen. Chuck Younger (R, Columbus) said he was unsure if he would support the tax, noting that he's had several calls from people opposed to the tax. Let's be clear here: If our local legislators do not support this bill, it has no chance of passing.
Chism, for his part, could not articulate any coherent reason why he supports the Starkville tax but opposes the Columbus one.
In general terms, Chism said he noted that the Starkville tax will be used for recreation unlike Columbus, where the funds will be used for an entertainment venue.
That's hard to swallow. Recreation and entertainment both fall under quality of life. Some people like to play softball. Others like to watch a concert. Why the distinction?
Chism further stated that the people of Columbus should vote on the Columbus tax, but apparently does not believe the Starkville tax should be decided by voters.
Again, we ask: What's the difference?
Is it a matter of petty politics?
Until Younger or Chism can articulate why they support one tax and not the other, we are inclined to believe factors other than good policy are in play here.
Citizens are entitled to an honest explanation.
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