The People Take on the Sales Tax | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The People Take on the Sales Tax

In this undated photo, then-Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba (right) consults with his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, whose loss in this year’s mayoral election, some believe, stymied the economic vision his father laid out before his death.

In this undated photo, then-Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba (right) consults with his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, whose loss in this year’s mayoral election, some believe, stymied the economic vision his father laid out before his death.

The last Jackson People's Assembly was a somber affair. It took place the week after the death of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, a co-founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, in late February.

The assemblies and its working committees are a key pillar of the MXGM's Jackson Plan. Lumumba described that sometimes-controversial mission as "essentially a self-determination tactic and strategy for African people in America, particularly and specifically in the areas which are affected by the plan," which include predominantly black counties in western Mississippi.

Six months after Lumumba's death and the unsuccessful campaign of his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, to succeed him as mayor, the organizers of the citywide People's Assembly say it's time to get down to business.

"People in Jackson do have a lot to talk about and a lot to vent about. The assembly is a place for that occur in an organized fashion," said Akil Bakari, chairman of the assembly's Political and Human Rights Committee.

As advertised on the flyer for the event, perhaps the most talked-about issue will be Jackson's 1-percent sales tax proposal. City residents overwhelmingly agreed to raise their own taxes on certain items in order to create a pot of money that can be used for infrastructure improvements.

After the vote and while Jackson was in the throes of the political campaign to select a new mayor, the Mississippi Legislature amended the original 2009 law that made it possible for the city to hold a city referendum on the tax. Under that legislation, the sales tax would exempt food and beverages at restaurants, which brought criticism from Jackson officials and residents.

State officials argue that the change was needed to keep some businesses from being taxed twice. Under state law, wholesalers of beer and light wine charge a 7-percent sales tax to retailers; retailers in turn apply that 7 percent tax as a state income-tax credit. Under the original sales-tax hike, wholesalers would have to charge retailers 8 percent in sales taxes but retailers would still receive only a 7 percent credit.

Yarber recently called the change a tradeoff. In separate legislation, lawmakers gave Jackson the ability to make implementation of the tax retroactive, allowing the city to collect an additional three years of the tax. Thus, Yarber said he wouldn't put up a fuss about the legislative amendment even though some members of the council have grumbled aloud that the city should take action.

One of the People's Assembly topics will involve coming up with a plan to pressure city officials in fighting the change to the sales-tax proposal, which Bakari argues was tantamount to taking away Jackson's right to self-determination.

Former Lumumba administration officials Willie Bell, who headed public works, and Kwame Kenyatta, a former Lumumba adviser, will give an overview of the inner workings of the sales tax as well as a projection of how much has been collected since the tax went into effect in March.

"There doesn't seem to be enough info coming from the administration on his this is supposed to work," Bakari said.

The Citywide People's Assembly takes place Saturday, Sept. 27, at 3 p.m. at Anderson South United Methodist Church, 1315 McDowell Road. Call 601-965-0342 or visit facebook.com/JxnPeoplesAssembly for more information.

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