This weekend marks the state’s eighth school sales tax holiday. Beginning at midnight Friday and continuing through Saturday, the normal 7 percent sales tax will be waived for parents purchasing some back-to-school items before the start of the new school year next month.
The sales tax holiday is not a new one, certainly, and is hardly unique to Mississippi.
Many states do it. Some even do it right.
Sadly, Mississippi is not among that latter group.
As constructed, Mississippi’s sales tax holiday applies only to clothing and footwear and is limited to items that cost $100 or less. While no one is likely to sneer at those savings, any parent with school-aged children knows clothes and shoes represent only a portion of the costs associated with supplying a child for the new school year.
Each fall, parents are given a list of school supplies they are expected to provide for their children — pencils, notebooks, binders, all sorts of things with each list tailored to the child’s grade level.
Taken alone, they may not be expensive. But when a parent finishes making all the required purchases, it adds up. For the poor, the cost is simply too much to bear. That means teachers often reach into their own pockets to provide those supplies that many poor children simply don’t bring with them as the school year begins.
We love the idea, but question the state’s commitment to it.
We find this especially true when we consider another sales tax holiday, the “Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday,” implemented two years ago at Gov. Phil Bryant’s behest to pander to those for whom gun ownership has evolved into a political cause.
That holiday, held each September, waives the sale tax on a wide variety of hunting/fishing items. What distinguishes the two holidays is that there are very few items that are not eligible for the tax exemption in the “gun” holiday.
That says something pretty sad about our state’s priorities, we believe.
When guns and bullets are more important than pencils and paper, our state reinforces the idea that education is not a real priority.
We urge lawmakers to expand the school supplies sales tax holiday to make all of the items schools require exempt from sales tax on this holiday.
To do less is to make only a token statement about the importance of education in our state.
Let’s don’t make a statement. Let’s make a difference.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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