Local legislators talk lottery, revenue at forum

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 6, 2017


The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — As state legislators consider ways to find revenue to pay for highways and bridges, two local legislators addressed the issue with a group of local residents Friday.

Email newsletter signup

Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, and Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, answered questions from local residents during the Friday Forum at the Natchez Coffee Company.

Residents asked the two lawmakers about the creation of lottery as a way to pay for highways and bridges and a way to fund education in the state.

“I am not for it,” Mims said. “I don’t think the lottery should be the tool used to fix a budget issue.”

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he might ask legislators to consider creating a lottery during a special session in June. He said he would only add it to the special session, if the Mississippi Economic Council supports the lottery to pay for highways and bridges.

The state chamber of commerce has not taken a public position on the issue.

House Speaker Phillip Gunn opposes a lottery but recently created a group to study the issue.

Dearing said he introduced a bill in the last session to create a lottery to help pay for roads and highways.

“I do support a lottery,” Dearing said.

Mims said a lottery is not the simple solution to fix the state’s problems that some might think.

“It is a lot more complicated than saying let’s just have a lottery,” Mims said. “I don’t think we should pin our hopes and faith on a lottery to save our budget problems.”

Others who attended the forum asked the lawmakers what other specific ways they thought the state could raise revenue, including a tax on junk food and the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.

Neither lawmaker offered any support for either suggestion and did not offer any other ways to raise revenue.

When asked about the Legislature’s recent failed efforts to enact a state Internet sales tax, Mims said he did not support the effort, but did support companies, such as Amazon, who voluntarily collected the tax for the state.

Mims said he was hopeful the state economy would improve.

“We are optimistic that our revenue is going to pick up,” Mims said.

The forum was sponsored by the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce and Alcorn State University.