Opinion – 2/20/2007

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Panolian: OPINIONS – Senator Nolan Mettetal

 From the 02/20/07 issue of The Panolian        

Funding bills receiving consideration from Senate at half-way point of session

As we passed the mid-point of the 2007 legislative session, Senators concentrated their efforts on the disposal of revenue and appropriation proposals for the more than 150 state government boards, commissions and agencies. These funding bills received consideration in both Senate committee and floor action.

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The preparation and passage of the education funding bill consumed a very lengthy period of time. This $2.472 billion funding bill (the budget’s largest proposal) passed the Senate unanimously and attains a goal that we are all very proud to accomplish. In addition to fully funding MAEP, this bill includes the $38.8 million teacher pay increase and the $2.35 million assistant teacher pay raise.

Additionally, $10.7 million are included for the increased contribution to the public employees retirement system and $9.7 million were added to cover increased cost of health insurance. Senator Jack Gordon (D-Okalona), chairman of Senate Appropriation Committee, stated that "this is the best education package that we have ever brought to the Senate."

Senator Mike Chaney (R-Vicksburg), chairman of  Senate Education Committee, stated that this was a significant day in Mississippi and that this was the best bill for public education that he had seen in his 15 years of service to the legislature.  Senators felt that a stable economy helped us to seize this wonderful opportunity in passing such meaningful legislation. Additional funds were included for the middle school mentor program, dyslexia screening, jobs for Mississippi graduates pilot program and a new State Department of Education physical activity coordinator. The proposal contained more than $210 million in new funds above FY 07.

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee passed a proposal extending the non-emergency transportation services for dialysis patients. The eligible patients included are 65 years of age or older or are disabled. No federal funds are available to assist in the cost of this service that received a lot of local citizen support. I am reminded of our past colleague Representative Leonard Morris in the Mississippi House of Representatives who was one of the original authors of this proposal.

In an effort to encourage reforestation of properties owned by those impacted by Hurricane Katrina damage, the Senate Finance Committee passed a bill expanding the state income tax credit for such reforestation practices. Hopefully, this plan would be an incentive for these landowners to keep their property and make it productive again rather than simply selling it off.

It is believed that the long-term economic impact of such projects could be very significant for both the property owner and Mississippi. Such individual property owners (not corporations) are eligible for a maximum amount of $75,000 of such credit during their lifetime. Written verification must be provided to the State Tax Commission for costs incurred on these approved reforestation practices.  Fifty percent of this actual cost could be deducted from one’s state income tax. The credit can be rolled over to future years until completely used by the taxpayer.

Another proposal exempts sales tax on admission to certain events sanctioned by the Mississippi Athletic Commission that are held within publicly owned enclosed coliseums and auditoriums. There is considerable competition among states to land certain events (like wrestling and boxing) and hopefully this tax exemption will assist our local civic centers to become more competitive. The theory is that our facilities will be able to land more events ultimately helping local economies.


We thank this paper for their support and their informing you. You can reach me at 601-359-2220 during the session or at home 662-487-1512.

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