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Pickering talks about state flag, census, taxes

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 5, 2001
As an April 17 deadline draws near for Mississippians to decide the fate of their embattled state flag, U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering said it's not yet time for him to give his opinion on the volatile issue.
The 1894 banner, with the Southern Cross in its canton corner, is the focus of a statewide referendum in which citizens will decide to keep the banner or replace it with a new flag.
Pickering, R-Miss., is not yet prepared to give his position on the flag but he did say he is impressed with the way all Mississippians have handled themselves through the sometimes-heated exchanges on the controversial flag.
Pickering is hoping the state can weather as well the congressional redistricting storm later this year. He said many factors will have a strong impact on how the new congressional districts are drawn once the state begins the process of whittling down its number of congressional members from five to four.
The state received preliminary Census 2000 figures in late December. They showed the state had not grown enough to keep from losing a congressional seat.
The State Legislature will meet this summer to begin the process of redrawing the districts, and then the Justice Department must give its stamp of approval for the changes to be enacted. Pickering said by September or October the new district lines should be known, leaving candidates for the seats about one year to campaign before the 2002 elections.
According to Pickering, preliminary indications show that his district could shrink on the far northern and southern ends, going respectively in the 5th District in the South and the 1st District in the North. But Pickering says the "heart" of his district will remain intact.
Pickering said despite a recent review of the military's mission, ordered by President George W. Bush, he feels confident continued investment and growth of Mississippi's three military bases and defense contractors will continue. During the last four years Pickering said defense investments in the state doubled from $4 billion to $8 billion a year.
According to Pickering, the next several years in Mississippi will present the state with a chance to grow its own economy through significant investments by the federal government into research projects at universities and more transportation funding, which could benefit Meridian.
While Pickering says the federal government will be sending more funding back to the state for transportation needs, and is hopeful the feds will be sending money back to residents in the form of tax cuts also.
While President Bush may face staunch opposition to some parts of his tax package on Capital Hill, Pickering says he stands firmly behind the plan.
Bush's plan calls for the elimination of the "Death Tax," a reduction in the so-called "Marriage Penalty" and and expansion of the child tax credit from $500 per child to $1,000. President Bush is also proposing eliminating one of the five tax brackets to simplify the tax code.
Pickering said he feels particularly strongly about the elimination of the "Marriage Penalty" and the "Death Tax" calling the "Death Tax" "un-American."
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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