By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Extending a law providing furniture manufacturers a $2,000 tax credit for each new cut-and-sew job appears to be popular even though most legislators say they know little about how successful the program has been.
“I have had some industry people say they were appreciative of us passing the legislation,” said Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn. “As far as numbers, I couldn’t say, but I think it has been an incentive.”
The furniture industry, primarily in Northeast Mississippi, lobbied successfully for passage of the tax credit in the 2010 session as a way to help manufacturers bring cut-and-sew jobs back from China.
The tax credit was extended in the 2012 session until July 1, 2016. Unless legislation is passed this session, the tax credit will expire.
A bill to extend the tax credit until Jan. 1, 2019, has passed the Ways and Means Committee and is pending before the full House.
Sen. J.P. Wilemon, D-Belmont, said he heard from one manufacturer asking the tax credit be extended.
“I feel like it is something we should do for the industry,” Wilemon said.
Sen. Russell Jolly, D-Houston, said, “I am for the furniture industry. I think this will help bring jobs to Northeast Mississippi.”
Sen. Nickey Browning, R-Pontotoc, also said he supports the legislation, but said, “I would like to know how many jobs we have gotten back” from overseas.
In 2012, the Daily Journal reported at least 2,000 jobs had been added to the furniture industry since the tax credit had been put in place.
At the time, Ken Pruett, president of the now defunct Mississippi Furniture Association, said the goal was to add 10,000 jobs to the industry that employed about 20,000 people at the time.
Furniture manufacturing jobs appear to be at least holding steady.
According to the website for the Franklin Furniture Institute at Mississippi State University, 19,284 people currently are employed in the state in furniture manufacturing at an average annual salary of $31,020, while another 21,762 are employed with furniture suppliers.
Ways and Means Chair Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, said the bill to extend the tax credit was introduced after seeing it was about to expire.
“We haven’t heard yet how effective it is,” Smith said.