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Report to the People

Finger Pointing Is Rampant In The Aftermath Of The Legislative Session


  Hardly a day has passed since the end of the 2017 regular session that we haven’t heard horror tales about state agency budget cuts. Finger-pointing is rampant these days as one group blames another for the circumstances that are costing hundreds of state employees their jobs, threatening the welfare of individuals with mental illnesses and even creating further burden on families whose young people are hoping for a college education.

The truth is that over $300 million in tax relief measures of one type or another has created a situation where vital government services are being eliminated or drastically reduced, and people are either suffering or afraid of suffering. 

Here are just a few cuts for FY 2018, below the FY 2017 budget levels: Division of Medicaid – $60,670,516; IHL — $38,142,771; MAEP – $29,192,809.  You can see that the situation is dire. 

One of the most alarming reports has been the reduction in mental health services across the state. Agencies officials are preparing to fire 650 employees, close a unit that serves mentally ill children and teenagers in Meridian and close a crisis stabilization unit in DeKalb.

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not being admitted in certain regional centers. The nursing homes at the Meridian and Whitfield facilities are no longer accepting patients. Families are on waiting lists for help – with little idea of an end to the wait.

To further add to the issue, Mississippi is under a federal lawsuit because we had previously failed to create a system whereby individuals with mental illness were able to systematically receive help in a community setting.

It is indeed a tragic outcome of bad public policy that has left one of our most vulnerable populations without help. One in four Mississippians is directly affected by mental illness – either their own or a loved one’s. 

Meanwhile, the governor is preparing an agenda for a June 5 special session to revisit the Attorney General’s and the Department of Transpor-tation’s appropriation bills because none were passed during the regular session.

There have been several suggestions of additional issues for the special session – revisiting House Bill 1033, a measure designed to address sentencing disparities for certain non-violent crimes and the working of inmates by local governments, which the governor vetoed because of a typo; facing the deficient public school funding issue, which the governor already has said will not be included; and re-examining Senate Bill 2956, which is creating funding problems for students planning for college. Thus far, other than public school funding, the governor has not finalized what will be in his call for the special session.

The potential funding sources are still under consideration in some quarters. The Speaker of the House recently appointed a special committee to study the viability of the state lottery as a source of revenue. I was one of several legislators who urged passage of a lottery measure during recent sessions. We will see what the special committee discovers, and I will note that all but two of the states of the Southeast have this source of revenue. Our citizens drive many miles for the chance to participate in lotteries.

If I can be of assistance in any way, please call on me. My local office telephone number is 662-647-3203 and my email address is thomasureynolds@bellsouth.net. My mailing address is 1720 North Main St., Water Valley, MS, 38965. 

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