In his executive budget proposal, Gov. Tate Reeves called for the complete elimination of the state income tax. This has been a bad idea for the past few years when House Speaker Philip Gunn called for it, and it remains a bad idea today. Simply put, Mississippi cannot afford to cut off that much revenue and still provide adequate services long term to its citizens. Furthermore, at a time when hospitals are failing, we have more urgent investment needs than broad tax cuts.
At the same time, targeted tax cuts can be effective and helpful tools in aiding Mississippians during specific times of their lives. One idea being tested in Florida is a tax break on certain baby and toddler supplies. While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has called for a permanent repeal of sales tax on those items, lawmakers decided to test the measure in a year-long tax break.
The 2022-2023 Children's Diapers and Clothing Sales Tax Exemptions — which began July 1 and runs through June 30, 2023 — is aimed at goods for children 5 and under. Qualifying items include clothing, apparel, shoes and diapers.
Mississippi lawmakers should consider going further by including baby formula and food; specific supplies like baby wipes, pacifiers and ointments; and even certain furniture and accessories like cribs, bassinets, strollers and even playpens.
In his executive budget proposal, DeSantis listed other items such as paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, hand soap and trash bags — all items that families spend hundreds of dollars on annually and that the use of which increase exponentially with children. These are all ideas worth considering.
Working with childcare experts, lawmakers could likely find other financial incentives and tax exemptions that would provide needed and worthwhile assistance to parents of young children.
There is the concern of creating a complicated system of items that are or are not tax exempt, which very likely would require technology upgrades to manage and perhaps even a change in how the state classifies certain retail goods. But these are not insurmountable problems, and they certainly should not be seen as deterrents to helping Mississippi families.
Finally, such a plan in Mississippi would go well with efforts to address the needs with an expected increase in births after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. It would target a specific group of Mississippians who could use and benefit from financial assistance. And, importantly, the negative impact to our state budget would be limited, especially when compared to a broad plan like the full elimination of the state income tax.
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