Hood proposes cut to food sales tax, sunshine for lawmakers

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Hood greets a supporter Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Jackson, Miss. In a speech before supporters, Hood proposed eliminating the state’s sales tax on groceries and making lawmakers subject to Mississippi’s open records law. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)

JACKSON, Miss. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Hood is proposing to eliminate Mississippi’s sales tax on groceries and require lawmakers to be subject to state open records law as part of a “Pledge to Mississippi Families.”

Appearing with supporters at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, the four-term attorney general renewed attacks on Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and other legislative leaders who he says are catering to out-of-state corporations.

“Working families have been kicked to the curb for far too long,” Hood said.

Hood faces Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith and retired Jackson State University employee Velesha P. Williams in the Democratic primary. Reeves faces state Rep. Robert Foster of Hernando and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. in the Republican primary. Marijuana activist David Singletary is running as an independent in the general election.

Hood said he wants each lawmaker to publish a list of lobbyists they meet with. He also wants to subject legislative records to open records laws, and to make it illegal for lawmakers to raise campaign funds during legislative sessions.

“For too long they’ve run our leadership in the Legislature like a casino,” Hood said. “They’ve been collecting chips and handing out favors to special interests in our state. We’ve got to clean that out.”

He pointed to the large amount of campaign money Reeves has amassed as evidence that something was wrong, criticizing tax cuts pushed by Reeves as “giveaways.”

“How do you accumulate $7 million unless you sold us out?” Hood asked.

The attorney general was less definitive on his other campaign planks including more work to improve roads and bridges, raising teacher pay, making college more affordable, and expanding the state-federal Medicaid program to increase health care access and improve the finances of rural hospitals. For instance, Hood said after the speech that he didn’t know how much it would cost to abolish the state’s 7 percent sales tax on groceries. He said more details would come later.

Hood tried to downplay partisanship in his speech, saying he remained confident that Republicans and Democrats could work together under his leadership. However, Reeves continues to push a partisan message tying Hood to national Democrats, as his campaign did when responding to Hood’s criticism of tax cuts.

“Every Mississippian needs to know that Jim Hood is launching his campaign with a pledge to raise taxes and kill jobs,” Reeves spokesman Parker Briden said in a statement. “This proves again why he is the favorite of the radical national Democratic Party.”

Briden also said much of Hood’s campaign money comes from lawyers that he hired to file various lawsuits, “so we understand why he has fundraising on his mind.”

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