Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann is leading the charge to simplify and better cost-justify the incentives that Mississippi gives to lure new businesses and help others expand.
It’s a worthy endeavor.
Too often in this state, those in political office — especially whoever is residing in the Governor’s Mansion — tend to want to give away the store, bribing businesses to come to this state with incentives so lucrative that they will never pay for themselves. Sometimes state officials don’t vet the projects well to see whether they are sustainable. Or they award the incentives based on promises of jobs created and wages paid, with little follow-up to see whether those promises are kept or to hold the companies financially accountable.
The Institutions of Higher Learning, the oversight agency for the state’s public universities, also uncovered another problem recently with the state’s incentive plans: There are so many of them and so uncoordinated that not all of them are being used.
Under the legislation that Hosemann is pushing, no new incentive plans would be created. Rather, some would be killed, others would be consolidated, and in general the process would be streamlined so that those seeking incentives and those awarding them would know exactly and in simple terms what’s available. Any business creating at least 10 new jobs and a $2.5 million investment would be eligible to apply.
Most importantly, these so-called MFlex incentives would be awarded based on performance, not promises. And some of them would be tiered so that the more jobs created, and the higher paying those jobs are, the larger would be the rebates and tax credits.
Let’s see if Hosemann’s idea is enacted, and, if it is, how it plays out before rendering any definitive judgment on it. It certainly sounds, however, like a significant improvement over how Mississippi’s economic development deals have been structured in the past.