Taxing Dilemma

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The Mississippi Tax Commission could collect another $20 million to $40 million a year if it had money to fill vacant jobs for auditors. That's what Tax Commission Chairman Ed Buelow told legislative budget writers Tuesday.

Beulow said that filling the jobs would cost about $1.5 million for salaries and a smaller, unspecified amount for travel.

Senate President Pro Tempore Travis Little said the money would be a good investment, especially as the state continues to struggle with a tight budget.

Individual income tax collections have been lagging behind expectations, but Buelow said most of the uncollected money is from out-of-state companies.

Beulow spoke on the opening day of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's annual hearings. The 14-member committee is meeting every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through Sept.25 to start planning spending for fiscal 2005, which starts next July 1.

All 174 members of the Legislature will get to vote on final spending plans next spring.