Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

___

May 31

The Commercial Dispatch on childhood hunger:

...

Through funds provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, students who rely on free breakfasts and lunches during the school year will be provided those meals through the summer.

Both the Columbus Municipal School District and the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will open school cafeterias to provide breakfasts and lunches to any child under age 18 regardless of whether or not they attend school in the district.

The national program is especially important in Mississippi, where almost 13 million struggle with hunger, according to Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

Last year, Columbus and Starkville schools provided 43,000 meals over the summer and organizers expect to provide a similar number of meals this year.

That so many of our children must rely on these meals should stir our consciences and call us to action.

Anyone who believes that this program, as vitally important as it may be, is a solution suffers from a diminished sense of empathy. Children get hungry on weekends, too, and as important as these breakfasts and lunches are, it does nothing to prevent a child from going to bed hungry at night.

That reality should both break and open our hearts.

There are many who work tirelessly in our community to combat child hunger. Backpack programs that provide children with food they can easily prepare for themselves over the weekend is an act of mercy. Others in different ways and on different scales do what they can to feed our poor children.

But the majority of us do nothing or, at least, do nothing consistently.

We urge every citizen to take up this important cause. Contact your area charities, your civic groups, your churches. They may have feeding programs that need your contribution, whether it be financial or as a volunteer.

If you can't find such a program, start one yourself.

"Nothing can be done," is true only if we choose to do nothing.

Somewhere tonight in our community, a child will go to bed hungry.

If you're not OK with that, consider this a call to conscience — and to action.

Online: http://www.cdispatch.com

___

June 3

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal says online sales hurt Mississippi cities:

Mississippi is seeing a tax shift as its residents gravitate toward more online purchases.

Use tax collections are growing steadily. Sales tax collections are relatively flat. And the distinction has a significant impact upon the state's municipalities.

Mississippi law mandates that the state collect a 7-percent tax on the sale of most retail items, regardless of whether the item is purchased in a traditional brick-and-mortar store or over the internet.

When that transaction is made in a store, the retailer is required to collect the tax and send it to the state. That is classified as a sales tax, and the state then sends 18.5 percent back to the city where the purchase was made.

When the sale happens online, the consumer is expected to voluntarily report the tax and send it to the state, although a growing number of online retailers have begun to collect it themselves. That tax collection is classified as a use tax, and it is not shared with municipal governments.

With two months left in the fiscal year, Mississippi's use tax revenue is up $30.4 million, or 16.12 percent, according to a recent report by Mississippi Today's Bobby Harrison. Meanwhile, sales tax collections are up $11.2 million, a mere .7 percent.

At a time when the state has found a growing source of revenue, many cities are seeing flat or declining sales tax collections. That trend will be sharpened as the movement toward online sales continues to grow.

The tax shift comes at a time when cities are finding their coffers stretched to make needed infrastructure repairs. Sales tax collections are one of the largest sources of revenues for Mississippi's cities, along with property tax. In some cities, sales taxes outstrip property taxes. The decline of such a key source of revenue will hit cities hard.

We urge state leaders to carefully consider the impact new technologies are having on Mississippi's tax code. This would be a good time to craft ways to send a portion of use tax revenue back to cities to replace the money they are losing in sales tax.

It's also a good time to remind consumers of the benefits of shopping locally, rather than making purchases online. It's easy to get caught up in the bells-and-whistles and the convenience of online shopping. But don't forget that every dollar you spend in brick-and-mortar stores is helping your local economy and supporting jobs, right here at home.

And nearly 20 percent of the sales taxes you pay at brick-and-mortar stores is also staying in your local community - supporting services, roads and schools in your hometown.

That's not the case when you shop online.

Online: http://www.djournal.com

___

June 1

The Greenwood Commonwealth on a recent survey about what businesses want:

Delbert Hosemann, the Mississippi secretary of state, ... released the results of a survey that said the thing businesses most want is an educated workforce.

That's an appropriate desire, and Hosemann's survey of 5,300 businesses also reported that they want employees who have a strong work ethic, are honest and have communications skills.

Interestingly, state and local tax incentives ranked pretty low on the list of priorities, as they have on previous surveys conducted by Hosemann's office. That's probably because most of the respondents to the unscientific survey were small businesses, with less than 50 employees. These are the businesses that rarely if ever qualify for any such tax assistance.

Mississippi's education scores, when compared with the rest of the country, are too low. And there is an evident brain drain of some of our smartest young people, who are moving to other states for work.

Those are easy things to be negative about, but business operators should remember that some 21-year-olds are more mature than others. With a little luck, and a little encouragement, a good many of the Mississippians who stick around will grow into the role of a productive worker.

Some will need a little more assistance. So while education and a good work ethic are desirable — and honesty is essential — it is clear that some people will need teaching and training at an even more elementary level when they enter the workforce.

What businesses really need is for their workers to show up as expected. Not four out of five days a week, but all the time. While sickness or personal problems are unavoidable, this missed time should not be excessive. But too often it is.

In an age when even the smallest businesses are forced to do more work with fewer employees, absenteeism can cause real problems.

Showing up for work illustrates that one key element to success at any job is simply being there. That way, you learn how things work and how to treat customers, and you gain the appreciation of the owner or manager.

Online: http://www.gwcommonwealth.com