Monday, November 17, 2014

Phil Bryant's Tax Plan Needs Work

Yesterday, Governor Phil Bryant rolled out his budget plan for the upcoming legislative session. In his announcement, Bryant noted
“Mississippi should start fiscal year 2016 in the best financial health it’s ever had. This budget addresses the needs of the state while giving back money to the hard working families of Mississippi,” Gov. Bryant said. “The increase in revenues is an opportunity to return money to the taxpayers, not to spend more on government programs.”
This tax credit will allow low to moderate income working families the opportunity to take advantage of a nonrefundable tax credit. This will allow for full or partial relief of an individual’s income tax liability depending on his or her income and filing status.
“I believe the additional money Mississippians will save on taxes will be reinvested in the state’s economy,” Gov. Bryant said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature in providing tax relief to working families, as well as finding ways to reduce the tax burden on small businesses and corporations.”
To make sure the state is protected during uncertain economic times, the tax credit will only be available in years when the “Rainy Day Fund” is full and revenue estimates meet or exceed 3 percent growth. 
Here's the problem: Bryant's proposal is a double standard and does not go as far as it could to help poor Mississippians.

Bryant sets conditions on which a tax reduction would occur for poorer people. When he signed a bill in 2012 giving a $24 million bailout to a shopping mall in Pearl, Bryant did not say that economic growth must exceed 3 percent or that the Rainy Day Fund be full. The difference is that this bailout was given to Bryant's campaign donors, not ordinary Mississippians. Bryant has set no similar standard for companies that get business loans or grants for the state, but when it comes to poor Mississippians,

Additionally, the tax credit is nonrefundable. That means a person or family's tax liability cannot drop below $0. For all Bryant's grandstanding about returning money to the taxpayers, his own statement concedes that this may not occur.

Do not be fooled by what the governor is trying to do. Phil Bryant is trying to have a news cycle where he looks like he is a champion of poor Mississippians. His plan, however, needs a lot of work in order to make that a reality. Bryant needs to go back to the drawing board and try again.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Phil Bryant Keeps Mississippi 50th

You have to hand it to Governor Phil Bryant. He works really hard keeping Mississippi on the bottom.

A review from the conservative Forbes magazine ranks Mississippi 50th in terms of being the best place for business in the United States.

Their reasons for ranking Mississippi where they did repeat what has been highlighted on this site and other economic reports for quite some time: poverty is holding us back. At the same time, Phil Bryant and the Republican Party have done nothing to show they care about the crippling poverty in our state. In Forbes' own words:

Phil Bryant gives away the store to his friends involved with the now-bankrupt KiOR plant, but he keeps turning a deaf ear to the struggles of Mississippians barely getting by. Phil Bryant and the Republicans will give a tax cut to the fat cats, but those benefits are not showing any positive growth for jobs in Mississippi. All we have to do is look at the numbers showing Mississippi still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and that jobs are being lost in our state. Perhaps Phil Bryant needs to get out of the Governor's Mansion more often and talk with and work for ordinary folks that aren't his campaign donors.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Rep. David Baria Calls for Legislative Hearing in Response to Epps

AThis is great to see movement and a more in depth questioning of what I asked last week here:





JACKSON, MISS. State Representative David Baria (D.- Waveland) today called for a Legislative hearing on recent charges against long-time MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps for an alleged bribery and kickback scheme dating as far back as 2007. Baria also called into question the reasoning behind Epps’ re-appointments even while he was under intense investigation by at least one state agency, according to reports.


“The conduct alleged in the indictment—bribery and kickbacks concealed as consulting services—enriched individuals at the expense of Mississippi taxpayers,” Baria, an attorney, said. “As a member of the Legislature charged with being a good steward of public resources, I have questions about what our state leaders knew and when they knew it as it relates to former Commissioner Epps.


“Why was such a powerful official who was under intense scrutiny for years allowed to remain in his position? How much state money has been wasted by the failure to stop shady business deals by an official under investigation?” Baria said.


“Sadly, the MDOC scandal is not an isolated incident of government corruption in our state. It is just the latest example of a larger trend of corruption and cronyism in Mississippi government over the past decade. From the Department of Marine Resources scandal that resulted in multiple federal convictions to a former State Representative being forced to resign for steering state contracts to his family business, there is a disturbing trend of political appointments and state contracts being used to enrich the politically well-connected,” Baria said.


“The frequent use of no-bid and single source procurement contracts similarly puts money in the pockets of the well-connected, but at exorbitant costs to the Mississippi taxpayer,” Baria said. “At a time when we are told by Republican leadership that the State does not have the money to adequately fund education and ensure that working-class Mississippians have access to healthcare, there never seems to be a shortage of funds to enrich those who feed at the trough of state government.


“In light of this trend that only continues to fester, I am asking that we in the Legislature convene hearings to investigate why former Commissioner Epps was allowed to remain in his position despite a long-pending investigation and to comprehensively review the handling of state contracts. Mississippi must get out of the business of back room deals that benefit no one but politicians and their friends and family.”


On November 6, 2014, a federal indictment was handed down against former MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps for a scheme that allegedly enriched him by millions of dollars. It appears that Epps was reappointed to his powerful position twice while under investigation: once by former Gov. Haley Barbour in 2008 and again by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2012.


Baria said he intends to pursue his request for hearings and will be introducing legislation to rein in the lucrative no-bid contract system currently in place.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Questions of the Day

Why wasn't Governor Phil Bryant on top of things by letting the alleged bribery scandal at the Department of Corrections take place on his watch? 

The governor with all these so-called plans somehow lets corruption pass by his desk undetected or ignored. 

Something to keep in mind with all of the private contracting problems: in recent years, the Republican-led legislature and Phil Bryant authorized private contractors be hired to investigate delayed child support payments and drug testing of recipients of assistance programs. These measures were lobbied by the Barbour family. Where is Phil Bryant sending our money? 

Shady deals, money in politics, and an aloof Phil Bryant. What possibly could go wrong? 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Phil Bryant's Beef Plant Keeps Bleeding

It looks like a pet project of Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.You and I will be left to pay for Haley and Phil's mess.

The KiOR project in Columbus has been plagued with cost overruns that would make Wall Street blush. Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant expect you, me, and other Mississippi taxpayers to pick up the tab for this debacle.

What started as a $75 million loan from the state of Mississippi (standing by for outrage from all those who say we shouldn't spend money we don't have and the government shouldn't pick winners and losers) has turned into a disaster which now requires Mississippi taxpayers be immediately repaid over $300 million! In fact, the total cost of the project has now exceeded $6 billion, tripling its original cost! It is cheaper to send probes to Mars (powered by engines tested in Hancock County) than it is to keep Haley and Phil's mess in operation.

KiOR has delayed repaying its loans to Mississippi taxpayers; the Bryant administration has let them get away with it, so far at no penalty. Other than a letter from the Mississippi Development Authority, no enforcement of the loan repayment has taken place.

If you operate under the theory that corporations are people, why hasn't this company been taken to collections or court yet? Ordinary citizens like you and me would have been taken behind the woodshed for negligence like this. Most folks like you and me would call this special treatment unfair, yet friends of Phil Bryant don't event get a slap on the wrist. 

Get ready, Mississippi. Phil Bryant's mess is about to hit your wallets and electricity bills big time.

Why was Epps Re-Appointed?

One thing that strikes us at Cottonmouth about the MDOC Debacle is the regular insistence among state officials that they have long been investigating director Chris Epps. According to The Clarion Ledger, the inquiries began in 2007, meaning two separate governors reappointed Epps with his record sullied.

Was their truly no better choice than someone under state and federal investigation?

One has to wonder if Haley suggested reappointment to Governor Bryant and he just blindly followed along, or if Governor Bryant saw the writing on the wall and reappointed out of laziness, or worse...

Did Phil know exactly the kind of person he was allowing so much power?

PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley holds fundraiser

Presley, a populist who is well-known and well-liked in north Mississippi, will hold a fundraiser in the birthplace of his cousin this coming Monday night.  His supporters can be found on both sides of the aisle, as can be seen on the invite:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cochran Supporters Love Obamacare

Earlier today, Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney toured Madison County with Senator Thad Cochran. Hours before the polls open, Chaney took to Facebook to point out the benefits of Medicaid expansion in Mississippi.

Conservatives have not been pleased with Cochran, viewing him as too moderate. Chaney has been a supporter of Obamacare in Mississippi, and him standing side by side with Cochran should reinforce conservatives' skepticism.

Chaney (far left) campaigning today with Thad Cochran
From Chaney's Facebook Page Today

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cochran's Appeal Falls Flat

Senator Thad Cochran attended a rally in Jackson last night to promote his support among black voters. According to eyewitnesses, the crowd was very light, disinterested, and there was a lot of food left over. I would like to proudly point out that Democratic candidate Travis Childers had more people than that attend an event for him in Rankin County several weeks ago.
"I certainly am hopeful I get support from the black community," Cochran said after speaking to a sparse crowd of about 40 at a block party in his honor in downtown Jackson. "… Soliciting votes from all segments of the community. That's what my practice has been since I first ran in '72 (for the House)."
Cochran may have solicited their votes, but when it comes to policy to help black citizens, his record is quite shoddy. Let's keep in mind what has occurred in Mississippi since Cochran has been in office since 1973. In 2005, Cochran refused to sign onto a resolution on behalf of the United States Senate which apologized for lynching to the victims as well as their descendants. Cochran's reasoning: "I wasn't in the Senate when lynching happened." Nearly a quarter of this state is in poverty, and most of this occurs in communities of color. Mississippi has the second highest incarceration rate in the country, and most of those in our state's prisons are black men. Mississippi has the second highest unemployment rate in the country, and most areas of high unemployment come from counties with high minority populations. Cochran still opposes efforts to revisit and modernize key provisions of the Voting Rights Act which were struck down by the United States Supreme Court in 2013.

What is outrageous about Cochran's appeal is that a PAC supporting him has received roughly $200,000 from a predatory loan company whose victims are often poor persons of color. In essence, Cochran and his supporters are saying "Thanks for your vote, but too bad about that cycle of debt this company keeps you buried under." Leave it to the Barbour family to show you how little they care about this tragedy that faces poor families in Mississippi.
"I think this is just people who need an issue and are wanting to stir up the tea party people," Barbour said. "…Obviously that campaign has nothing to talk about, if this is the best they can come up with. It's a laughable comment."
A laughable comment? The state of Mississippi has a poverty crisis, and the Barbour family is laughing all the way to the bank. That's the Cochran/Barbour Republican Party for you; use you then lose you. Folks, Mississippi deserves better than this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Phil Bryant Violating NCAA Rules?

In an email to supporters yesterday, the Mississippi Republican Party highlighted a statistic talking about how well Mississippi is doing in digging up dinosaurs to power our homes and cars. The graphic used by the state party originated in Governor Phil Bryant's office but was later picked up by the Mississippi Republican Party.

The response from the Mississippi Republican Party is pretty characteristic of their "it ain't my fault" mentality.
Mississippi GOP communications director Bobby Morgan said he sent the email and didn't see a problem with it.
"I didn't create that graphic, I took it from the governor's Twitter page," he said. "It didn't create any controversy then, I don't think it should create controversy now.
A problem is that having these football players in Bryant's propaganda is that it implies that these football players and the Bulldogs and Rebels support being used for Phil Bryant's purposes. I imagine Dan Mullen and/or Hugh Freeze would not appreciate being put in a campaign commercial without their permission. Additionally, the NCAA's rules find it inappropriate for this type of thing because it has a policy against advocating for controversial issues.

What's more is that Phil Bryant steals the spotlight from the successes of Mississippi State and Ole Miss to deflect attention from his own failed economic record. If Bryant was making a ranking system of his time in office, he should highlight that Mississippi - under his watch - ranks first in economic insecurity for children, second for the highest unemployment rate in the country, and has the second highest incarceration rate in the country. No wonder Phil Bryant does not want to run on his record.