Mississippi has a terrible budget conundrum: allocations have increased by about $700 million since 2012, but income has increased by only about $600 million. The federal government will not ride to our rescue. There is not enough political willpower to raise taxes; there is not enough willpower to cut programs. Our legislators don’t seem to mind pontificating on the evils of waste in various agencies, and seem to assume that mid-year budget cuts–there have been five during this fiscal year–will inspire agency heads to trim the fat they must.
And the hits keep coming:
- The Mississippi Economic Council estimates that we need to spend about $375 million more on roads and bridges each to keep vital infrastructure from falling apart.
- The University of Mississippi Medical Center faces about $35 million in cuts that will require layoffs–even as UMMC strives to become a larger economic engine in the region.
- Delta State University will have to close its golf course, which was essentially the only public golf course in the area, because of the recent mid-year budget cuts.
- Despite the fact that the legislature raised teacher salaries during the last election year, salaries for Mississippi teachers are the second worst in the country; adjusted for inflation, those salaries are worth 10.5% less than they were a decade ago.
So far, the only “serious” efforts to bridge the gaps between what we have and what we want are an internet sales tax, which is not guaranteed to pass, and a lottery, which may not pass (and which is unlikely to generate more than $50 million a year).
I’m tired of driving on bad roads. I’m tired of worrying about how safe my water is. I’m tired of wondering when my school will receive the renovations (and other general funding) that it deserves.
Fixing these problems need not be a back-breaking affair. If we increased taxes on every man, woman, and child in this state by just $100 a year–less than many people spend per month on their smart phones and data plans–then we could generate almost $300 million. Quickly.
ADDENDUM: Geoff Pender at The Clarion-Ledger has been asking similar questions. Here’s another reason the state’s income has plummeted.