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Mississippi House Democratic Leader...

Mississippi House Democratic Leader says eliminating state income tax “doesn’t make much sense”

By: Anne Summerhays - February 7, 2022

Rep. Robert Johnson spoke at the Stennis Capitol Press luncheon today where he provided updates on the 2022 legislative session from his perspective.

Mississippi House Minority Leader State Representative Robert Johnson (D) spoke at the Stennis Capitol Press Forum in Jackson on Monday about the 2022 Legislative session and the priorities of the Democratic Party.

Rep. Johnson started the lunch by posing the question: “As a legislature, what are we trying to achieve? We’re not making this place better for our children, we’re not making this place where people want to live, what are we doing?”

The Democrat Leader said a necessary part of his job is to be able to work with others. Johnson mentioned how, though he doesn’t always agree with Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, he considers the Republican leader a good friend and said that it is important to be able to have discussions and talks with one another.

“I’m a Democrat, and I’ve found myself in a predicament from time to time with being on the wrong side of what Democrats wanted, but what I thought was best for people,” Johnson said. “As we move this state forward, as we try to, we need to find places that we can agree. I’m in a majority Republican legislature, a super majority, and so when the Speaker of the House calls me and says can we sit down and talk about an issue, I find a way to talk about it.”

As to specific issues that lawmakers have been debating, Rep. Johnson said that eliminating Mississippi’s income tax “doesn’t make much sense” long term. But looking at in the short term, Johnson believes that it gives him the opportunity to be in a room with the Speaker to discuss the state’s surplus to figure out what he and Democrats can do for people in Mississippi.

This could explain the political calculation Johnson and a majority of his Democratic colleagues made when they voted for Speaker Gunn’s HB 531, the “Mississippi Tax Freedom Act of 2022,” in January. In fact, only four (4) Democrats cast a vote against the House plan.

Johnson stated that the issue of eliminating the state’s income tax is a “Republican battle,” adding that it is whether or not the Governor, the Speaker, or the Senate gets credit for the move. He said that he is betting that somewhere in the middle, heads will be bumped and no plan will be passed. Johnson said that if a plan is passed, at least it includes cutting the tax on groceries and fees on car tags.

Rep. Johnson also talked on how the Democrats’ priorities for the 2022 Legislative session are primarily focused on spending of the American Rescue Plan Act funds, infrastructure funds, and the continued roll out of broadband.

The House Minority Leader cited how Mississippi’s infrastructure was given a letter grade of D+ and how the state is ranked 35th in K-12 schooling, which is an improvement from 50th, but it is still in the bottom half, Johnson said.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Johnson told attendees.

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth.