- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


Oct. 5

The Hattiesburg American on campaign finance reforms:

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann unveiled a package of proposed procedure and election law reforms recently, including transparency in who makes reportable contributions and detailed open records of how campaign money is spent.

Hosemann, Mississippi’s chief election officer, wants any person to have electronic access to campaign finance records, with full implementation of reforms beginning in 2020. The online filing is voluntarily available now at Campaign Finance Search on the secretary of state’s website.

His full proposal would include itemized access to campaign credit card spending records, which would help maximize the proposed tightening of “personal” expenses coming from campaign funds.

Hosemann, a Republican originally from Vicksburg and a former high-profile private-sector attorney, said there is a difference between a candidate taking a spouse to a politically related banquet and purchasing expensive cowboy boots and similar indulgences.

Some reforms were passed during the 2016 legislative session, but parts of what Hosemann and many others sought were defeated or dropped in the legislative process.

As Hosemann noted, he does not have the power to make all the proposed reforms because only the Legislature can pass the necessary laws.

It is wholly reasonable to expect and require full disclosure and easy access to campaign contribution records above the current $200 threshold. Hosemann’s online proposal would result in faster, better reporting of campaign finance figures and harsher penalties if the reports aren’t made or are late. But laws need to be enacted.

There’s no obstacle to activating the reporting system, but full compliance is voluntary unless laws are toughened.

Some people probably don’t care how campaign contributions are spent, but the legal standard should be clear for political items like services, advertising and campaign transportation. It is difficult to justify anything purely personal like mortgage payments or improvements to any candidate’s private residence.

Hosemann said he is inclined only to “narrow exceptions” in campaign spending rules, which he said in a meeting with the Daily Journal should be “very tight.”

What Hosemann and others in both parties with similar views seek is not unusual. All 50 states have some kind of campaign finance disclosure laws on the books. The key is in the quality of the laws and enforcement.

The position of the National Conference of State Legislatures is instructive. NCSL, in which several Mississippi legislators have played important roles, says, “The most common means of regulating political spending is through various disclosure and reporting requirements.”

Hosemann’s proposals aren’t about federal campaign finance, only Mississippi’s laws, the sphere within the immediate influence of the Legislature, state leaders and citizens.

Just more than three months remain before the 2017 session convenes, when Hosemann and other supporters of reform face the daily grind to win passage.

We believe Mississippi politics at every level can gain integrity with the campaign finance reforms proposed.

Online: https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/


Oct. 7

The Commercial Dispatch on Tax Increment Financing agreements:

It’s never easy to risk turning away business, especially in Mississippi which is currently in the throes of a severe economic crisis.

That is why the Starkville Board of Aldermen’s decision Tuesday to reject a proposed TIF agreement to build a Walmart Neighborhood Market in east Starkville was an act of courage.

TIF - or Tax Increment Financing - is a way to encourage development by using taxpayer money to build infrastructure for a particular project.

Walmart was seeking a $1.35 million TIF pledge to construct an access road from Highway 12 to the proposed development site in east Starkville, but four aldermen - David Little, Jason Walker, Roy A. Perkins and Henry Vaughn - blocked the original request, as well as a $675,000 compromise presented by Alderman Scott Maynard.

We believe the aldermen acted wisely in rejecting this request, not because TIF’s are in all cases bad, but because they are not all good, either.

While it may be hard to walk away from Walmart’s assurance that the project would add 95 permanent jobs and a $2 million annual payroll, there are important factors that argue strongly against the project.

For starters, TIF’s should be used to attract businesses that establish their own markets by identifying and capturing a niche that does not exist or is underserved.

It’s hard for Walmart to make that claim. It is likely that Walmart would build a customer base by attracting customers who currently shop at nearby Kroger and Vowell’s Marketplace stores. Moving customers from one store to another produces little benefit to the community.

Noting that Kroger has recently spent a considerable sum on renovations without asking for tax breaks, the aldermen said, though their vote, that city leaders should not be in the business of choosing sides in marketplace.

We were also disappointed that Walmart seemed to present its request in the form of an ultimatum: No TIF. No store.

That is either a strong-arm tactic or an indictment of the project. If it is the former, the aldermen were right to reject that sort of heavy-handed threat. If it is the latter, the aldermen were right to have deep reservations. After all, if the viability of the project rests so heavily on securing tax breaks, it is likely that the margin for success of the project is small indeed.

Any viable business should base its decision to enter a market on market conditions rather than relying on a taxpayer supported advantage over its competitors. We believe in competition, certainly, but we also believe in a level playing field.

What is true in Starkville is true everywhere.

Our communities should encourage and support new businesses, certainly. But elected leaders also have an obligation to the taxpayers to represent their interests wisely and be careful stewards with the tax dollars entrusted to them.

TIF agreements, in some cases, may be a useful tool in attracting business. But TIFs should not be standard operating procedure.

Each case should be studied carefully and approved or rejected based on whether it stands as a wise investment of taxpayer money.

In this case, Walmart did not make a convincing case.

The aldermen were correct in rejecting the TIF proposal.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com/


Oct. 9

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the lottery:

Even if Gov. Phil Bryant is warming to the idea of lottery in Mississippi, it’s still a bad idea as a way to raise money to fund government.

Bryant, according to The ClarionLedger of Jackson, said he would be open to discussing the idea, a significant change from his previous promise to veto a lottery, if it got that far in the Legislature.

Those who support a lottery usually do so for one of two reasons. They see the jackpots being doled out elsewhere and want a shot at that action without having to drive across state lines. Or they see the lottery as a voluntary tax and, thus, more palatable than raising income or sales taxes.

But a lottery is very inefficient as a revenuegenerating mechanism. By the time they pay out the prizes and cover their advertising and administrative costs, most states end up netting only about a third of what’s sold in lottery tickets.

For the purchaser, it’s also a poor bet. On average, state lotteries pay out in prize money about 60 percent of what they sell in tickets. A gambler has much better odds at a slot machine or gaming table, of which Mississippi already has an ample supply.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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