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Governor Bryant Encourages House, Senate to Approve Health Care Bills

Press Release

Location: Jackson, MS

New legislation is poised to increase the number of health care jobs in Mississippi if the Legislature gives the nod to the Mississippi Health Care Industry Zone Act. Gov. Phil Bryant sees the approval of these bills -- House Bill 1537 and Senate Bill 2947 -- a necessity for expanding the health care industry and creating jobs in Mississippi.

House Bill 1537 and Senate Bill 2947 -- mirror versions of the act provide incentives for health care related businesses to create new full time jobs in areas where hospitals exist.

Gov. Bryant said he is in favor of both bills because of the expansions that could be made in the health care industry. "Health care is an industry of necessity," Gov. Bryant said. "Our population is aging, so we know that more Mississippians will have the need for increased health services. We also know that the health care industry creates good paying jobs that Mississippians need. As Governor I will do all that I can to help foster a positive environment for medical development while making sure Mississippians have the proper access to cutting edge medical care."

Gov. Bryant sees the creation of Health Care Zones as a way to increase the quality of care available to both Mississippians and patients in other states who might come to Mississippi seeking cutting edge health services.

Hospitals generate nearly $12 billion in economic impact in the state annually, according to a report issued by the Mississippi Hospital Association. More than 94,700 Mississippians are employed as a result of a hospital's operation or construction. Jobs in health care pay about 40 percent more than the state's average income, according to the Greater Jackson Partnership's healthcare initiative.

Mark Slyter, President and CEO, Baptist Health Systems said, "The Governor's health care zone legislation has the potential to bring new businesses and jobs to the identified zones. This in itself is worthy of support; however, the biggest impact from this legislation is what it is sparking behind the scenes. We are pleased that many economic development groups are recognizing the importance of high quality health care and hope that, through this legislation, medical facilities around the state can make great strides in advancing health care innovation. In our industry, quality is the driver that can enhance Mississippi as a destination for health care. With the Governor's lead and the collaborative planning efforts at the local and state level, we will enhance the quality of care provided in Mississippi, and the by-product of this has the potential to grow our economy."

Through the legislation, counties who have hospitals with a certificate of need for at least 375 acute care hospital beds can be declared by the Mississippi Development Authority as a Health Care Zone.

Special incentives would encourage health-related business sectors like pharmaceutical research and development, biotechnology, medical product manufacturing and distribution, laboratory testing and diagnostic imaging to establish new operations in counties with hospitals that have certificates of need for 375 acute care hospital beds or more. Health-related businesses would locate within a five mile radius of hospitals in such counties.

To qualify for incentives, companies must make an investment of at least $10 million and create a minimum of 25 permanent, full time jobs.

Incentives included in the legislation are:

- Accelerated state income tax depreciation deduction: This would encourage development by allowing companies to reduce taxable income after initial development in exchange for paying higher taxes in the future.
- Sales tax exemptions: These would give an exemption on equipment and materials purchased from the date of the project's certification until three months after it is completed.
- Property tax Fee in Lieu: At the county's discretion, qualified companies could pay a fee instead of a property tax for 10 years.
- Ad Valorem tax exemption for ten years: local governments would be allowed to grant qualified companies a ten-year exemption from taxes levied against a property's value under this legislation.

Companies may also qualify for further incentives from MDA, such as:

- Advantage Jobs credit: This program rebates a percentage of payroll to companies who create new jobs. The jobs must meet or exceed the average state wage or average county wage, whichever is lower.
- Jobs Tax Credit: Certain businesses are eligible for credits that reduce income tax liability.
- Infrastructure Assistance: MDA can provide infrastructure assistance to qualified companies.

Bryant traveled in November 2011 to Houston, Texas and saw firsthand the benefit of the vibrant Texas Medical Center. The delegation was led by the Greater Jackson Partnership and included CEOs of the major health care providers, practicing physicians, and legislative and corporate leaders.

"The Governor's Health Care Zone proposal will not only enhance the efficiency and quality of healthcare, but also stimulate economic development in our great state. This proposal thankfully adds Health Care to our state's targeted industries list," Duane O'Neill, President and CEO, Greater Jackson Partnership said.

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