On Thursday, February 16, 2017, the Mississippi Heritage Trust received a call from the sixth and final Member of Mississippi’s Congressional Delegation to agree to be an original cosponsor of the Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act in the 115th Congress.
News of Senator Cochran’s support was received on February 15th after the statewide non-profit led a grassroots advocacy effort that included endorsements from numerous constituents including Phil Eide (Jackson), Mark Castleberry (Columbus), Doyce Deas (Tupelo), Rico Chapman (Jackson), and more.
By the next afternoon, all six had announced their support, culminating in a tremendous 25th birthday gift for Mississippi Heritage Trust. It was announced at a press conference on Friday, February 17, their 25th Anniversary.
In September 2016, MHT met with all six offices (including 4 Members) in their Washington, D.C. offices to present data about the program and its key factors that have led to substantial investments in Mississippi’s historic treasures since the program’s inception.
Five of the delegates cosponsored the bill before the legislative session ended without the bill receiving a vote on the floor. The meetings, however, developed the relationships for the organization to again approach the lawmakers, leading to unanimous support in the new Congress.
The Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) encourages private investment in the rehabilitation of historic buildings by allowing owners to receive 20% of their qualified rehabilitation expenses as credit against their personal income tax obligation.
When combined with the State HTC (25%), the two form a powerful motivator for developers to choose to save historic places where new construction (without the credits) is often cheaper.
Mississippi’s state HTC was suspended for a year in 2015 with its renewal uncertain, leaving numerous developers across the state without key equity needed to complete financing of projects.
MHT launched an advocacy effort to educate policy makers and the public about the critical impact of the program, mobilizing supporters to call on their representatives to reestablish the program. The legislature increased the cap from $60 million to $120 million, funding the program for approximately 5 more years.
When signs of a sweeping tax reform policy became evident in Congress, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Action likewise mobilized nationwide advocacy efforts to protect the Historic Tax Credit program. In response, MHT reached out to Mississippi Congressional delegation and received unanimous support of this vital legislation.
Additionally, a group of 15 constituents representing Mississippi Heritage Trust, the development community, Main Street, Girl and Boy Scouts of America and others, will attend Preservation Week in Washington, D.C. in March to further promote historic preservation. The trip is sponsored by Mark Castleberry of Castle Properties, owner of The Mill in Starkville, a stellar example of the tax credits at work for Mississippi’s economy.