Local tax debate in Mississippi House

A delegation from DeSoto County watches from the House gallery as House lawmakers approved tax revenue items for both Southaven and Horn Lake, which funds tourism initiatives for both cities.

Southaven and Horn Lake city officials received good news from the Mississippi House of Representatives this week about taxes.

The full House approved separate measures that extend the repeal dates to July 1, 2022 for a hotel-motel tax in Horn Lake and the restaurant tax in Southaven also known as “Penny for the Parks.”

The two DeSoto County communities lost revenue last summer when the House refused to extend a local option tax opportunity both had counted on.

Southaven had received funds from restaurant sales up until June 30 to cover improvement projects in the Parks and Recreation area, money that totaled as much as $1.9 million annually.

Horn Lake had been able to get funding from a hotel-motel tax for economic development and to encourage tourism to the community, money that added $300,000 annually to that city’s coffers.

House Bill 1472 was passed and sent to the Senate Tuesday on a vote of 93-21 to allow Horn Lake to be able to receive a $2 per-night, per-occupied room levy to the books to fund economic development for the city.

A similar bill, House Bill 1471, passed the House and was sent to the Senate that would give Southaven back the Penny for the Parks restaurant levy.

The final vote on the Southaven bill Wednesday, as amended, was 97-17 in favor. There was a motion to reconsider the bill after an initial vote approved it 86-19 on Tuesday, which led to the final roll call vote Wednesday.

Rep. Jeff Hale (R-Nesbit) and Rep. Bill Kinkade (R-Byhalia) were the authors of both bills.

The bills did not get consensus support from DeSoto County lawmakers, however. Reps. Dana Criswell (R-Olive Branch), Steve Hopkins (R-Southaven) and Dan Eubanks (R-Walls) again voted against the levies.

“I’m really excited about it now that it has passed the House,” Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer said Thursday. “Losing that money really hurt, but getting it back, if it comes on through, would be tremendous for us. If it had not passed the House, it would be dead.”

Both Latimer and Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite were confidently hopeful that passage would now come in the Senate, where there was support for the extension last year.

“I think that revenue is beneficial for the city and for our kids, for recreational opportunities and the quality-of-life for our citizens, but beneficial also from an economic development standpoint,” Musselwhite said Wednesday. “It makes our city more economically attractive, which has exponential benefits. I’m hopeful it will go through the Senate and become law again.”

In both cases, petitions with 20 percent of eligible voters, or 1,500 signatures could force a referendum on the tax issue in either Horn Lake or Southaven.

Musselwhite said if a referendum is called, he would not be opposed to it.

“The Legislature is the one that generates repeal dates and the referendum, so we are at their mercy,” Musselwhite said. “Southaven is not opposed to another vote, however this bill has what is called a ‘reverse referendum,’ where if 1,500 signatures are presented within a certain time frame, it calls it back to a vote, but it does not mandate that there be another vote.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

(1) comment

One Citizen's Voice

Probably should be renamed "Pocket Change We'll be Taking Off of You" because for ever $50 meal, that's 50 cents....or for every $100 meal, that's a dollar into Musselwhite's pocket to use. That adds up, but hey what do people in Southaven care?

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