The session finished on schedule – a change of course from the multiple extensions in the 2020 session. The 2021 session was good for agriculture as the industry defended itself against a tax increase, the legislature placed Mississippi farmers and ranchers on equal footing with neighboring states as it relates to agriculture hauling, and the state continued to find ways to get rural broadband fiber lines to homes.
Mississippi Income Tax Freedom Act of 2021
The Mississippi Income Tax Freedom Act of 2021 (HB 1439) was probably the most discussed piece of legislation during this session. Authored by Gunn, Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White, and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Rep. Trey Lamar, this legislation would have eliminated the state income tax over the next decade and cut the grocery tax in half, creating a $1.9 Billion dollar hole to fill in Mississippi’s budget, accounting for approximately a third of the overall budget.
To make up this loss of revenue, the bill raised sales tax by 2.5% on most consumer goods and on certain other businesses that presently have a reduced rate. One of those increases was on farm equipment, implements, labor, parts and repair, as well as logging equipment and dairy building supplies.
Farm Bureau policy supports the present sales tax rate of 1.5%, and the MFBF Board of Directors unanimously opposed the legislation as it was written, because of the increase in taxes on farmers. The Mississippi House passed this legislation, but it died without coming up for a vote in committee in the Senate. Later, the House passed an amended version of this bill removing the sales tax increase on farmers and loggers.
Mississippi Infrastructure Investment Act of 2021
The Mississippi Infrastructure Investment Act of 2021 (SB 2825) was sent to Gov. Tate Reeves after being deliberated until the final moments of the 2021 session. SB 2825 did the following:
- Moved weight enforcement from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to the Department of Public Safety
- Increased the fine for hauling in excess of weight allowances
- Created the Harvest Permit Advisory Council (which includes a representative from MFBF) to review how Mississippi’s harvest permits rate against other states and discuss the need for a harvest permit moving forward
- Increased the tolerance for agriculture hauling, bringing Mississippi in line with neighboring states
- Transfered $89 million to the Emergency Road and Bridge Replacement Fund.
This bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.
This year, Senator Joel Carter and Rep. Scott Bounds, chairs of the Senate and House Energy and Public Utilities committees, both filed legislation allowing investor owned electric companies to provide broadband service to its energy customers, with the revenue used to reduce energy rates. SB 2798 is now awaiting the governor’s signature.
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees, chaired by Rep. Bill Pigott and Senator Chuck Younger, handled legislation to place the Mississippi State Fair Commission under the authority of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, and added a representative from Alcorn State University to the commission.
Mississippi’s budget numbers looked better this year compared to the last few years. Both Alcorn State University and Mississippi State University’s agriculture units received a budget increase.
- Alcorn State University Agriculture Units – 2.5%
- Mississippi State University Agriculture & Forestry Experiment Station – 2.0%
- Mississippi State University Extension – 2.3%
- Mississippi State University Forest and Wildlife Research Center – 4.0%
- Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine – 3.8%
There are rumors of two special sessions in the coming months – one to appropriate federal American Rescue Plan dollars and one for redistricting. MFBF will keep you updated throughout the year.