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Mississippi Legislature reauthorizes tourism taxes by overwhelming margins

MONEY: The Mississippi Legislature reauthorizes local tourism taxes with little opposition. Photo illustration by Steve Wilson

According to an examination of the past five legislative sessions, the chances of a tourism tax being renewed is 78 percent. Out of 51 bills to renew the taxes, only 11 were rejected by the Legislature.

Tourism taxes are levied on hotels and restaurants by cities and counties and start life in the Mississippi Legislature as local and private bills. Once one of these bills is signed into law, it will authorize a referendum. Once the tax is passed by voters, it usually has to be reauthorized by the Legislature every three years.

Once the reauthorization bills make it out of each chamber's local and private committee onto the floor for a vote, there is little opposition to reauthorizing the taxes.

The Mississippi Senate went three years, from 2014 to 2016, with only a single nay vote being entered against one of the bills. Nay votes on the taxes in 2018 and 2017 averaged only two votes per bill.

On the House side, the bills have passed with only token opposition. In 2018, the average margin of victory was 97 to 11, which is an improvement over 2015 when it averaged margins of 105 to 10.

Cities and counties brought in more than $37 million in tourism tax revenue in 2004 according to data from the Mississippi Department of Revenue. In 2017, cities and counties collected more than $93 million in tourism tax revenue. According to the latest DOR data from April, the 83 tourism taxes in effect now have earned $81 million so far this fiscal year, which ends June 30. That's up from fiscal 2017, when collections at this point added up to to more than $77 million.

As of July 1, there will be 90 special levies for tourism taxes authorized by the Legislature, up from 59 in 2004. Seven of the taxes were authorized in this year's session.

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