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Mississippi bills aim to keep graduates, raise cigarette tax

Mississippi bills aim to keep graduates, raise cigarette tax

About 40 percent of Mississippi college graduates leave the state within five years according to a report by College Board. As these recent graduates take their skills and business ideas elsewhere, this has made millennial economic growth in the state difficult. The Mississippi House of Representatives plans on combating this by using House Bill 1550 to slash income taxes for four-year university graduates who remain in state after graduation.

Authored by Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, this bill gives recent graduates an incentive to stay in state after completing their education by promising tax cuts the first three years after graduation. If graduates purchase property or begin a business with at least one employee, they could receive the tax exemptions for an additional two years.

“House Bill 1550 is designed for us to have a discussion on the issue,” said Rep. Lamar. “I have seen a lot of this [brain drain] with the people I went to school with… We want to keep our best and brightest from leaving the state.”

However, the College Board report has been scrutinized for not accounting for out-of-state students. Despite this, Rep. David Baria, D- Bay St. Louis praised the bill and said his two daughters may consider attending college in Mississippi.

If the bill passes in the Senate, it will become law on July 1.

In addition, Senate Bill 3048 could raise the tax on cigarettes from 68 cents to $1.50 per pack. According to the Heart Association, the tax “has the potential to prevent 14,000 premature smoking-related deaths, prevent 22,800 children from becoming adult smokers, and to help 26,500 current adult smokers quit.”

The bill hasn’t been completed at this time. Rather, the House put the tax addition language into a bond bill, which keeps the possibility of a tax increase alive in the House should they choose to officially vote on it and make the tax increase a law.