Friday, June 2, 2017
JACKSON Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political-advocacy organization founded by the Koch brothers, will throw Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves a five-figure thank-you campaign, after the Republican repeatedly shot down proposals to divert funds to pay for the state's infrastructure, which he called "unconstitutional."
During the legislative session, Mississippi House leaders drafted several proposals to increase funding for roads and bridges, including diverting some online sales tax revenue that the Department of Revenue began collecting this year from retailers like Amazon into a fund for roads and bridges. Amazon has voluntarily started collecting use tax in several states, including Mississippi. Reeves maintained that the proposal was unconstitutional, due to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in a 1992 decision that a state could only collect sales tax from stores with a physical presence in the state. Reeves called the Internet sales-tax money collected from retailers like Amazon "fake money" because states do not have the authority to collect it. AFP and hardline conservatives agreed.
"Lt. Gov. Reeves has shown leadership in opposing calls for gas tax increases, an unconstitutional Internet sales-tax proposal, and taxpayer-funded handouts to movie producers," Mississippi AFP Director Russ Latino said in a press release. "The Lt. Governor's leadership is a sign that he understands that real Mississippi families can't afford to pay more in taxes and are fed up with waste."
Reeves has more than $4.3 million in his campaign-finance account, more than any other state-elected official, his January 2017 donor report shows. AFP is an advocacy organization, not a PAC, that increased its lobbying presence at the Capitol this year, advocating for deregulation of occupational licensing as well as opposing any tax hikes.
Latino emphasized to the Jackson Free Press that AFP is an issues-based organization, not a candidate-based one. He said it is an education effort, and that AFP will acknowledge when candidates act consistently with their values as well as when they do not going forward. Latino also said that this promotional campaign, which will be statewide through mail and a digital component, is not about elections or asking people to vote for Reeves, who is expected to run for governor in 2019.
Nationally, Americans for Prosperity spent nearly $14 million in the 2016 federal elections alone, Open Secrets data show. The advocacy organization has branches in several states.
House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican from Clinton who backed several proposals to get more funding to roads and bridges, maintained that his chamber's proposals did not increase taxes or implement any new tax. Gunn and his key chairmen amended their proposals throughout the session in an effort to work with the Senate, but the two houses never came to an agreement on diverting revenue for infrastructure, which eventually led to the need for a special session, which will be Monday, June 5.
Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @arielle_amara.