HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - State lawmakers are working on a way to encourage college graduates to stay in, or move to, Mississippi.
House Bill 1550, referred to as 'brain drain' legislation, would give tax credits to recent college grads of accredited, four-year universities, either in or out of the state of Mississippi.
Representative Missy McGee (R - District 102), a University of Southern Mississippi alumna, is a co-sponsor on the proposed legislation.
"You know, in Mississippi, we do a great job at educating a lot of our students, but we don't always do a great job of being able to keep those students, the young talent in our state," said McGee. "I think House Bill 1550 is a great first start to address this issue and hopefully encourage students to make a life here in Mississippi."
The bill would exempt recent college graduates from state income taxes for three years if they stay in Mississippi. It would exempt them an additional two years if they buy a home or start a business with at least one additional employee. The bill provides a further exemption if a graduate becomes a licensed teacher.
"Recent" graduate refers to an individual who has received a bachelors or post-graduate degree no more than one year preceding January 1 of the first calendar year for which the recent graduate claims a deduction under this section.
Southern Miss freshman Daniel McAllister is from Ellisville, majoring in music education.
"As of right now, I would like to go out of state for grad school," said McAllister. "I thought about maybe getting a job locally there, but I would probably come home for family or other reasons or something like that."
McAllister said the proposal for tax credits would be "great, financially-wise" for graduates.
"I think a big reason that people like myself look at out-of-state school or going out of state for further education is definitely money," McAllister said. "Especially education, Mississippi has one of the lowest pay grades for it it. So if we get that, that would definitely be an incentive for some people and maybe myself to come back or stay in state."
"To have our leaders recognize that 'brain drain,' the loss of talent to surrounding states, is a problem, that's a good first step," said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker.
Barker, also a Southern Miss alumnus, has pushed the need to retain young professionals in the Hub City throughout his campaign and now in office.
"Having financial incentives that encourage college graduates to keep their talent here, to invest here in a home or business or to teach, those things always help us try to keep people here," said Barker. "I'm excited it's now the center part of the conversation and I look forward to see what happens to it when it goes to the other side of the capitol."
"We know there are a lot of other issues that go into keeping our young professionals in the state," said McGee. "We need good jobs, we need a good quality of life, we need to improve some perceptions. But, I think this is an exciting first step to provide for our recent graduates to hopefully encourage them to stay in Mississippi."
Bill 1550 passed overwhelmingly in the House last week and now goes to the Senate for consideration.