Lawsuit attacks Grand Gulf tax distribution

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, July 7, 2009

PORT GIBSON (AP) — A lawsuit filed in Claiborne County attacks how taxes are levied — and distributed — on the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant.

The suit, filed this past week in circuit court, alleges the taxation system put in place by the Legislature discriminates against local residents by diverting funds that should be coming to Claiborne County.

Named as defendants are the Claiborne County Board of Supervisors, the Mississippi State Tax Commission and state Attorney General Jim Hood. The 15 plaintiffs are county residents.

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Before 1986, Claiborne County received all tax revenues from Grand Gulf.

In 1986, the Legislature enacted a formula for distribution of Grand Gulf tax collections, providing that Claiborne County would get 30 percent of the first $16 million in revenues from the plant in fiscal year 1991 with 70 percent going to other cities and counties in the area served by what is now Entergy Mississippi. The state gets part of the 70 percent.

Claiborne County pays the city of Port Gibson 10 percent of its share.

The formula is based on power consumption.

Shortly after the 1986 formula took effect, Claiborne County sued to regain access to all the tax revenues. The Mississippi Supreme Court in 1988 upheld the constitutionality of the formula.

In 1990, the Legislature, in an agreement that led to the lawsuit being dropped, gave Claiborne County an additional $4 million in one-time money, plus another $1 million annually from collections in excess of the first $16 million and an extra 10 percent of the remaining balance for a 10-year period. The funds come from the state’s share of the money.

The suit claims the law was “implemented for the racially discriminatory purpose of preventing a majority black county board of supervisors to assess ad valorem taxes on a power plant as the board deemed proper.”

According to Tax Commission records, in fiscal year 2008, Claiborne received $7.8 million from the Grand Gulf payments. The money accounts for most of the county’s budget. The next-highest recipient was the city of Jackson, which has roughly 10 times as many people as Claiborne but received only $1.6 million.

The lawsuit does not specify damages, but a statement issued by plaintiff Emma R. Doss said the lawsuit is “in the amount of $435 million.” Doss did not return a message to The Associated Press on Monday seeking comment.

The lawsuit does not disclose whether the plaintiffs are represented by a lawyer.

A Tax Commission spokeswoman said that the commission had not been served with notice of the lawsuit.

Local and state offices were closed Monday because of the July 4 holiday.