Cuts Threaten Vital Programs All Across Our State
The time has arrived for conference committees during the 2017 Legislative Session, and it is difficult to determine what the final outcome of the FY 2018 budget will be. We are still waiting on a final number on the education budget, which is the central piece of the state’s fiscal appropriation piece.
We welcomed hundreds of educators, parents, students and advocates to the Capitol on Thursday during budget deliberations that concern education. It was good to see my friend, former Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed, Jr., on hand to speak on behalf of the need to fully fund public education as a central piece of economic development for the state.
Earlier this week, we made the effort to raise awareness about the budget crisis the state is now facing. During a press briefing, my colleagues distributed spreadsheets showing that by this time next year, the cumulative effect of tax cuts will mean that we will have about $500 million less to provide vital government services for our citizens. As I have previously written, the very dangerous situation with our roads and bridges will cost about $350 million annually to fix for about a decade.
Those of us who have served for a number of years agree the State’s fiscal outlook is bleak at the current time.
During the time that the education rally was taking place on the second floor of the Capitol, the folks from Mississippi Public Broadcasting were downstairs, meeting and greeting capitol visitors and making sure that citizens are aware of the important services that this group offers. In addition to providing one of the most reliable sources of news and alerts during disaster, they provide a rich menu of children’s programs, historical information and other important cultural educational pieces. This is one of the many agencies facing drastic budget cuts because of the lack of revenues. Coupled with the threatened federal “rollback” of support for NPR, those of us who appreciate the services of MPB will need to help support their efforts to keep them on the air. I hope that effort starts in the Mississippi Legislature.
Also during the time the education rally was progressing, the administrators over at the University Medical Center were terminating 185 employees due to budget cuts.
On Wednesday, representatives of the State Mental Health Department were on hand to discuss their services with legislators and others at the Capitol. This area of state service affects many families in this area as well as all over the state. These are the service providers who help addicted Mississippians overcome their illnesses. They provide desperate and hurting families with the tools to cope when they have a loved one suffering from mental illness. This department, too, is in the crosshairs of budget cuts.
My friends, it is time for those of us who are at the Capitol to sit down together to discuss these issues and determine the best way to proceed for the people. The Bible tells us that with many heads involved, good decisions are made. We are hoping that the legislative leadership will make use of experience, the new and youthful ideas, and the good will of the members to solve this budget crisis.
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