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Education, healthcare key budget issues
by Cecil Brown
Dec 18, 2013 | 86 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Governor Phil Bryant and the Republican controlled Legislative Budget Committee (LBC) have released their state budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year.

Despite a growing economy that will produce more than $400 million in new tax revenue over the next two years, the Republicans have once again failed to add any additional funds to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), the state’s formula for determining the level of appropriations for our public schools. MAEP is currently some $265 million below the amount required by law. If these budget recommendations are enacted during the upcoming legislative session, every school district will receive 12 percent less than the amount of money both the legislature and previous governors have determined is necessary to provide every child the opportunity to receive an adequate education.

Operating costs continue to escalate in school districts. For example, we know that in districts served by Mississippi Power Company utility costs will increase by some 25 percent in the next few years. Across the state other operating costs are increasing as well. In some cases funding shortages will result in cuts to in personnel, books and school supplies. In other cases, school boards will increase local property taxes to make up the shortfall. Either way, the recommended budgets are short sighted and indefensible. Ninety percent of all Mississippi kids attend public schools, and the Republican budget proposals are threatening their future.

For the second year in a row, Mississippi’s Republican leadership is jeopardizing the health of hundreds of thousands of our state’s citizens by refusing to create a state-based health insurance exchange and expand the Medicaid program. Two independent studies have projected that expansion of Medicaid would provide significant economic benefits and more than $9 billion of federal funding to Mississippi at very little or no cost to the state. In addition, these studies project that expansion would create between upwards of 12,000 private sector jobs in Mississippi. Rejecting expansion will cause us to miss the opportunity for those jobs.

Those studies also point out how Medicaid expansion can provide a substantial amount of financial support to many of our hospitals. Under current law, our hospitals will lose millions of federal dollars over the next several years. Those losses should be offset by money from the expansion of the Medicaid program. By rejecting expansion, the Governor and the legislative leadership are endangering the survival of health care providers across the state, including our hospitals. There is no better example of the Governor’s willingness to put his partisan politics ahead of what is good for the state than his budget recommendation to cover losses at our hospitals with state tax revenue rather than take advantage of the federal funding that would go to these very same hospitals under expansion.

There are many recommendations in both the Governor’s budget and the LBC budget with which Democrats agree. But we cannot agree to continue underfunding public education and to denying basic health insurance to our hardworking fellow Mississippians.

Cecil Brown represents Mississippi's District 66, which includes Hinds County, in the state House of Representatives.
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