Mississippi editorial roundup

Posted May 17

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


May 16

The Greenwood Commonwealth on tax cuts:

When Mississippi government looks at its current budget pinch, it's pretty obvious what the two root causes are.

. A painfully slow recovery from the Great Recession of a decade ago.

. A Republican driven series of tax cuts, mostly for corporations, that have yet to live up to their supporters' "trickle down" promise.

Earlier this month, Mississippi Today, the online news site based in Jackson, crunched the numbers. It found that since 2012, when a trio of taxcutting

Republicans — Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn — ascended into power, 51 tax cuts or breaks have been enacted, costing the state treasury a conservatively estimated cumulative total of $577 million during that five-year span. It's probably been much more, as state officials were only able to project the revenue impact on 21 of those 51 laws.

Since most of these tax breaks have been phased in, the effect has been steadily increasing. Of the $577 million in foregone revenue so far, some $324 million — or 56 percent — occurred in this fiscal year alone. And it's going to get bumped up again July 1, when the single largest tax cut in state history begins its 10year phasedin elimination of the corporate income tax and the 3 percent bracket for individual income tax.

Some of the tax breaks have been downright stupid — such as the one that bankrolled the development of several shopping malls before lawmakers stopped the insanity or the $600 million giveaway to Continental Tire that will never pay for itself. Some have been defensible, such as the reduction in the corporate inventory tax.

But none have produced so far the boom that their GOP supporters said would come when they passed them, as the state lags behind the rest of the nation in job and population growth. And next year is projected to be not much better than this year.

What should the state do?

First, hit the pause button. Lawmakers are coming back for a special session next month to complete some unfinished budget business. Bryant, who controls the agenda of special sessions, should ask them to postpone the tax breaks that are set to take effect July 1. Let's see this trickledown economics work first before gambling more on it.

As for gambling, what the state shouldn't do is enact a lottery, which Bryant says he is contemplating asking lawmakers to consider next month.

Mississippi may be desperate, but trying to boost the treasury on the backs of the poor and working class — those most likely to spend disproportionately on lottery tickets — while letting corporations off easy is unconscionable.

The governor, Reeves and Gunn are heavily responsible for the state's revenue problems. Even if they won't acknowledge their missteps, they have the power and responsibility to keep the situation from getting worse



May 16

The Clarion Ledger of Jackson on a recent racial profiling lawsuit in Madison County:

To the latest lawsuit claiming racial profiling in a Mississippi county, a legal filing accuses the Madison County Sheriff's Department of targeting black residents with unconstitutional and sometimes violent searches and seizures, arresting them at nearly five times the rate of white residents. A spokesman for the department said they had not been served with the lawsuit, and we fully understand this is a pending legal issue and these claims are only allegations at this point. But frequent claims similar to the ones in the new federal lawsuit have been made against then-Sheriff Toby Trowbridge in 2004, 2006 and 2007. And though the consistency of these claims does not prove guilt, we see this latest development as another one that can erode public trust in law enforcement.



May 17

The Sun Herald of Biloxi on how cuts to the Department of Education will affect local schools:

The bottom line: President Donald Trump's proposed $9 billion cut to the Department of Education would cut the number of teachers in Coast schools.

That's short-sighted.

Education is an economic driver, a sound investment.

The further one goes in school, the higher the average salary. That's more money for families to spend. And consumer spending is the fuel of the modern economy.

It is an effective way to fight unemployment. In 2016, the unemployment rate for a high school dropout was 7.4 percent. For a graduate it was 5.2 percent. For someone with a bachelor's degree it was 2.7 percent.

Mississippi is near the bottom in per-student spending and it lags the United States average for high school graduates and those with bachelor's degrees. It has a higher than average dropout rate as well.

But we are starting to turn things around. The state's dropout rate declined sharply since 2011. It has more graduates. Its test scores are improving.

We fear cuts proposed by the White House, particularly those to Title II, money spent to recruit, train and retain teachers, would slow or halt that momentum.

Fewer teachers would mean larger classrooms, less attention for students in danger of falling behind. And most of those at-risk students are at risk because they come from families struggling economically. For them, school is the best chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty that has haunted Mississippi for decades.

We know we have to get federal spending under control. We know agencies must shrink their budgets, root out inefficient programs and cut waste.

The Department of Education is no exception. But the president proposes to cut all the programs that give financial assistance to the poorest school districts. While several school districts on the Coast have high numbers of students who come from low-income families, they still managed to be rated among the best in the state. That's because our communities are committed to education.

We don't think the president should punish communities so willing to help themselves.

But if Congress and the president find no alternative to cutting the Title I through Title IV money, we urge our district to look for any other avenue of savings other than cutting teaching positions.



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