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“The Funds Are Available,” Miss. Democrats Want More Toward Education, Road Repairs, and State Employee Pay Raises

JACKSON, Miss. — Recommendations for how to spend your tax dollars during the next fiscal year have already been made by the legislative budget committee,  but House and Senate Democrat leaders have other ideas in mind. Currently the recommended budget has $188 million dollars going into the state’s rainy day fund. Democrat leaders say they would like to use $185 million for increased education funding, repairing roads, and giving all state employees a $1,000 pay raise.

“We’re not saying rob the bank, we’re not saying fund all the needs of the state of Mississippi. We’re saying of the things that are there, we believe these are the priorities of the state,” said Representative Cecil Brown.

In the current budget proposal teacher pay raises that were signed into law last year are $8 million dollars under budget. Senator Hob Bryan says funding will come out of the budgets of local school districts if teacher pay raises remain underfunded. In response Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gun said in a press release, “if they tell us the actual cost is different, we will pay whatever the actual cost is.”

The Democrat proposal allocates $97 million dollars more to the Mississippi Adequate Education Fund. Republican Representative John Moore argues that more money than ever is going into public education with programs like the third grade reading gate, teacher pay raises, and national board supplements, but Democrat Representative Cecil Brown says that money cannot be used for basic operations needed at schools, like fixing a leaky roof and other routine maintenance.

Democrats would also like all state employees to receive at $1,000 dollar pay raise, something that has not happened in eight years. “You can find a job in the private sector that is going to pay you’re a lot more than state employees make, we are going to lose those people and the people of the state of Mississippi demand services, they deserve services, and they deserve quality services from experienced people,” said Brown.

Other recommendations include increased funding to community colleges by $27 million, up from a $3 million dollar cut, and increased funding to universities by $19 million, up from a $14 million cut. They would also like to see $30 million dollars go toward repairing and maintaining highways.

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