Concerns rising about 2018 state budget
Thursday, March 16, 2017 11:49 AM
By Michael T. Evans
Dist. 45 Representative
We are in the final days of the 2017 Session, and most of our time now is spent in floor debate on appropriation and revenue bills, with a few general bills and resolutions thrown in for good measure.
The budget situation is very concerning for many of us. We are already about $133 million short for this current fiscal year, and it doesn’t look any more hopeful for next year. At the risk of stating the obvious, these appropriation and revenue measures we are passing are based on a projection that may not have any basis in fact. We finally have an education funding bill, but it is just copied from last year’s appropriation, and that had to be cut by $7 million.
We’ve got a set of tax cuts and revenue reductions that are going to cost us about $474 million when fully implemented. We keep beating this drum, and sometimes I wonder if anyone is getting the signal.
On a brighter note, we were able to get some kind of relief for victims of domestic violence by inserting an amendment in Senate Bill 2680 which details the necessary circumstances to allow for domestic violence to be accepted as grounds for divorce. That was one bill that got everybody’s attention. It passed unanimously.
The House stood tall in making sure that we still have a funding mechanism alive to repair and construct roads and bridges that are currently in such dangerous shape that inspectors are closing them. We added amendments to Senate Bill 2939 to add in a $50 million bonding authority for counties and municipalities to repair bridges and, we revisited the idea of sales tax on internet purchases, making them voluntary, unless they are declared constitutional in the future. Here in rural Mississippi, where we must travel many miles just to get to work, school, and church, the closing of a bridge is a big deal. We can’t just detour around the next block like they can in the cities. We have seen where bridge closings create much longer school bus rides for our children, some of whom are already riding an hour or more one way every day to get back and forth to school.
Speaking of school children and buses, I want to remind everyone that we now have Daylight Savings Time in place, which means that many of our little ones will be out by the side of the road in the pitch-black waiting for their buses in the morning. Let’s all make sure to be a little more careful when we’re driving in to work.
By the time you read this column, hopefully we will have welcomed hundreds of educators, their families, and advocates to the State Capitol. They are planning a rally on March 16 to bring attention to the fact that they have been left off the list of invitees to the table when education funding is being discussed. Most of the legislators can identify. We’ve been left off the list, too. Again, better decisions are made when more people have a “Seat at the Table” especially on matters as important as school funding. I hope they make their point on Thursday and are invited in. They deserve it.
Please go to our web site at www.legislature.ms.gov to review the daily actions of the chambers under Legislation/Daily Action Reports. You can check the Schedule/House Schedule to see when we convene and have committee meetings. Additionally, you can click on the Live Web Cast to watch us in action during floor debate. The Mississippi College School of Law has archived video of floor debates on specific bills. Go to their website at www.law.mc.edu and click on Library/Legislative History Project to view the debates.
You can email me at email@example.com with any concerns or call my Capitol office at 601-359-3311 or my cell at (601) 416-7495. Follow our actions at www.legislature.ms.gov by clicking on the Live Webcast when we are on the floor of the House.