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BILL CRAWFORD: Needed tire, road jobs for Mississippi don't come cheap

Bill Crawford
Bill Crawford

How much is a job worth to Mississippi?

Gov. Phil Bryant and the Mississippi Legislature are willing to pay a lot to get new ones. The recently announced Continental Tire project for Hinds County will get an unprecedented package of incentives that could amount to $240,000 per job, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.

The direct outlay is much less. The state will issue $263 million in bonds to get the 2,500 job plant. Of this, $20 million is a loan that Hinds County will repay. So, the state bond amount per job would be $97,200 (not counting interest) when Continental reaches the 2,500 job level in 2028.

In comparison, according to a handout from the Mississippi Development Authority, the bond amount per job for the 1,500 job Toyota project was $215,933; for the 3,000 job Nissan project it was $121,167; and for the 2,000 job Yokohama project it was $65,000.

The total incentive package jumps to about $600 million and $240,000 per job when tax benefits are factored in. According to the AP analysis, $177 million comes from 25-year income tax and corporate franchise tax exemptions plus an agreement to only tax tire sales that occur in Mississippi; nearly $90 million from the rebate of a portion of employee income taxes for 25 years; and about $70 million from property tax breaks, including reduced in-lieu taxes to schools.

One economic developer called the overall package but especially the employee tax rebates, reduced payments to schools, and limited tax to Mississippi-only sales "unprecedented." According to The Clarion-Ledger, the company would pay only one-third of normal property taxes to Hinds County and Clinton schools for 10 years.

Despite the big incentives, state economist Bob Neal projects the state will benefit in the long run. He said by 2040 state revenue would be on the plus side by $487 million.

Another big project that would yield 4,000 jobs, and help attract and retain others, is a multimillion-dollar rehab program to address Mississippi's road and bridge crisis.

The question is whether the Legislature will pony up the money to get this project off the ground. The latest reader comments support the project and favor upping fuel taxes.

One over-the-road truck driver said taxes on gas should be looked at as necessary user fees. "I would gladly pay 10 or 20 cents per gallon more to save downtime from repairs on my truck." He said "our roads are getting desperate," adding there are stretches on roads "that beat me and my truck to death."

Another said this is the "perfect time" to raise fuel taxes while prices are low. "It seems like a no-brainer to me."

Another suggested a tiered fuel tax system similar to models under consideration in California, Oregon and Texas.

If the Legislature doesn't address the road and bridge crisis, Continental should specialize in steel-jacketed tires for Mississippi.

Write Bill Crawford, a syndicated columnist from Meridian, at crawfolk@gmail.com.