- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A top Mississippi budget writer is poised to become the new commissioner of the state tax collection agency.

Gov. Phil Bryant announced Thursday that he is nominating House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, to be commissioner of the Department of Revenue.

If the Senate confirms him, Frierson would start the $140,000-a-year job on July 1. He would succeed Ed Morgan, a former state senator and former Hattiesburg mayor who has been commissioner for seven years.

Legislators are in their final weeks of a months-long process of writing a state budget for fiscal 2017, which begins July 1. Frierson said he plans to remain in the House until June 30, which means he will help finish the $6 billion spending plan to cover schools, prisons, health care and other state services.

Frierson, 56, is a real estate appraiser. He was first elected to the House as a Democrat in 1991 and switched to the GOP in early 2003.

“I’ll miss the House of Representatives, but it’s time to move on, and this is the perfect opportunity,” Frierson said in a news release from the governor’s office.

Bryant and Frierson were House freshmen together in the term that started in January 1992. Bryant later became state auditor and lieutenant governor before winning a first term as governor in 2011.

Frierson’s House district encompasses parts of Pearl River and Lamar counties, and Bryant will set a special election to fill the seat after Frierson steps down.

“As appropriations chairman, Rep. Frierson has been a big part of shaping a responsible budget that meets current needs and adequately prepares for the future,” Bryant said in the news release. “I know that conscientious work will continue upon his assuming leadership of DOR. I can think of no one better prepared to oversee the state’s revenue collections.”

The commissioner of revenue serves a six-year term.

Morgan, 68, served part of a term after the retirement of his predecessor, Joseph Blount. Republican Gov. Haley Barbour nominated Morgan for a full term in 2010, and as commissioner Morgan has overseen a replacement of the Department of Revenue’s outdated computer system. In an interview Thursday, Morgan said the $40 million system replacement has helped make tax collections more efficient.

“I think it had the most impact on the future of the department,” Morgan said.

Morgan also praised Frierson: “I can’t think of a better choice.”

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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