Make sense of the numbers

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:

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.

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17 Responses to Make sense of the numbers

  1. Aurelia Caine says:

    I’ve been hearing a lot about the budget cuts lately. I didn’t know the situation had perpetuated as much as it did. These cuts are currently having an impact on many people. My old high school uses Delta State’s golf course since it is less than a mile away. and because its really the only one in the area. But because of the budgets, they will now have to find somewhere else to go. Lots of teachers work very hard and go above and beyond to get their job done. Yet and still, they don’t receive as much as they should in their pay checks. If the outcome will be better roads, safer water, and better schools, I’m pretty sure most people won’t mind paying a little extra in taxes.

  2. Brianna Ladnier says:

    In all complete honesty, we spend way too much money on our armed forces. I realize this is more on the national level instead of the local level, but imagine the impact education would have if education and defense swapped budgets! Political figures need to start prioritizing, instead of just cutting everything. We complain about poverty, then we refuse to educate. We complain about early teen pregnancy, but we refuse to give out birth control. There is a root cause to everything. Mississippi is broke. Instead of hoping budget cuts will encourage spending on only the vitals, why don’t we look where money is being spent? Cutting the same amount of money from a program that is putting in their fifth swimming pool (just an exaggeration, not a reality) and a program that can’t even pay for books before the cuts is ridiculous.

    • Kamal Bhalla says:

      I agree, instead of just focusing on one thing (military) why not focus on larger things that are affecting the lives of Americans citizens right now? I mean if we focused more on the teenage pregnancy rates by giving out birth control, then think how low those rates would be right now. If we focused on building more infrastructure by taxing the people that are in that rage to be taxed, then where would be right now? Instead of focusing on other things, we as not only Americans citizens, but as Mississippi residents need to help our state grow once and for all.

  3. Sara Kostmayer says:

    Cuts in budget never seem to be a good idea, and given that the departments chosen are always pivotal to the success of those living in Mississippi, it never appears to be the right answer. Legislatures and those working for the inner performance of Mississippi are taking a stance to “ride it out” as opposed to doing their job for the state. I have seen and I have heard how the majority of MS is in shambles. I drive four and a half hours home on the poorly laid roads. I listen to the horror stories of education in the central part of the state.

    Although I would like to think so, I do understand that the coast is not better than the rest of the state, nor do coasties deserve to think that way. However, I will mention that the schools and road systems on the coast, especially Biloxi and Gulfport, and much better than the central part of the state by comparison. The reason for that is a combination of tourism, retirement, and casinos. Based upon this, I do think it may benefit the rest of the state to possibly take advantage of the gambling aspect which so greatly benefits the coast by possibly implementing similar systems.

    Lastly, the taxes. As always, I will preach the claim to tax the wealthy and give tax breaks to the poor. I do think that increasing the percentage for higher incomes along the graduated income tax system would benefit the state greatly as well.

  4. Harlynn Robinson says:

    The infrastructure in the state is terrible. There is no way to sugar coat the fact that last year my area was under a boil water notice for a collective of five months. I agree to the proposal wherein each citizen is taxed an extra measly $100. In theory, it is the fairest , as everyone has to pay this same equal and minute amount, but I am aware of the fact that not everyone may want to pay this and hold up their part of the financial burden for the state. Having to guarantee on the people to pay themselves out of this problem is too risky because there have been people since Thoreau that refuse to pay their taxes.

  5. Devon M says:

    Budget cuts are not good, and no one likes them. If taxes were raised, the public would not be happy. I mean, even if it’s by 100 dollars, some people do not have that money. Of course, it’s hard to make people happy money wise, and changing that can put a damper on stuff. But, it is a hard situation, because we need to get our lives in check and the government does too.

  6. Kayla Patel says:

    No one likes budget cuts, and honestly sometimes they don’t even make sense. Many teachers are let go and we hire teachers with less experience so they don’t have to be paid as much. Then we wonder why we are in the lower section education wise. In my old district, they built a new middle school when the old was fine and just needed some renovation. That year, they let go of 30 teachers, and many programs were cut.

  7. Kendall Wells says:

    Obviously, Mississippi has problems putting its money where it really needs to go in order to benefit the state. With that being said, if we taxed everyone another $100 and raised an extra $300 million, we need to make sure that the money goes towards exactly what the MEC says -roads and bridges. Budget cuts are hard to avoid but not impossible if we play our cards right. Mississippi needs to make sure that the places they invest money into, are in return doing something to benefit the state.

  8. Yousef Abu-Salah says:

    By my experiences living both within the city of Jackson as well as in other places surrounding it, I have witnessed some of the worst roads and infrastructure that I have ever seen. It is dreadful, and there seems to be no break to it. Budget cuts will only contribute to this growing problem, and it will also cause other problems down the road. Education is the one thing that Mississippi needs right now, and this is in shambles as well. Teachers aren’t being paid as much as they should, causing the entire job market to be in decline. Even the very best young teachers are moving out of the state at an alarming rate, and to be honest, why shouldn’t they? Our state does not appreciate academics at all, and it is this reason that many of our graduates move out of the state as well. I was very lucky for going to Northwest Rankin High. It is a great school; however, I used to be in another school. A school that was hit hard by budget cuts and eventually closed down. This is not okay.
    I will now address the idea that you have put up Dr. Easterling. I do not believe that we should raise taxes by $100 for every person within our state. This would cause too much of an uproar throughout the state, and many of the people living in this state would not be able to afford. We can, however, tax the rich and exempt the poor. By doing this, we could quickly regain money for our state and improve conditions for everyone living in our state. We live in one of the most historic states in America; however, this modern-day mess is not Mississippi. Until we can fix these issues, I guess we really are just another “landmass.”

    • Mary Owings says:

      I agree with Yousef and anybody else with common sense – Mississippi’s education system is in shambles. It was already pretty bad, driving several students to public schools in search for somewhat of an education. Money is constantly being taken away from public schools that don’t have anything else to lose. This is just becoming worse with recent administration changes for anybody at or below the middle class, as their prospects for an education and a future is being reduced daily. If the state of Mississippi wants to strengthen the economy, their best bet is education. Strengthening school systems and their students would ultimately result in future benefits, as these students are the future of Mississippi. The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science is one of the best things Mississippi has going for it, and we are constantly threatened with budget cuts. Fewer and fewer students get to attend every year – and they wonder why we leave the state as soon as we graduate.

      I definitely advocate for taxing the rich and not the poor – the ones with the big money are most necessary in circulating money back into the economy to fund infrastructure needs like roads and bridges.

  9. Samuel Patterson III says:

    Raise Taxes, Raise Taxes, and Raise Taxes. This state is a budgetary mess. I still wonder how conservative lawmakers, or any Mississippi lawmaker, sleep when they know their child or someone else’s child is receiving one of the worst educational experiences in the country. How do they sleep when they can drive around their state and still find segregated schools. On their way to the capitol to pass laws they have to dodge potholes and abandoned factories. Rather, they formulate bills to alienate the LGBTQ community and require institutions and government buildings to fly that sickening flag. The federal government has been patient with us, being 40+ % of our state revenue, and with an uncertain executive at the helm, that number might drop fast. Again I say, “Raise Taxes, Raise Taxes, and Raise Taxes.”

  10. Sarah Swiderski says:

    A marginal tax increase does seem the most effective option
    The tragedy of Mississippi lies in its vast Republican majority: raise taxes a hair and you’ve got the wrath of a southern armpit.
    (in the most positive connotation of the word)

    Even in college towns, poor roads pose an insufferable plague (where I live, anyways). With respect to what Sara Kostmayer said, I don’t see a true means of raising revenue without breaking a few laws. While casinos in the north may be profitable, the fact that gambling is illegal in non-coastal areas hinders that idea.

    Following Colorado’s lead and legalizing marijuana- with similar restrictions of course- could also generate tax revenue, according to several sources. The problem with this approach lies in the perception of risk – which is highest is MS out of any state.
    Bottom line, I don’t think this would make it very far.

    More on drug statistics by state here:

    Abstaining from tax cuts is clearly not the not the quickest or simplest means of bringing revenue into the state. In an area so densely populated by rightists, however, it might(barely) be the best bet.

  11. P. Patel says:

    There are a lot of problems with our state government regarding the budget. It feels like the state is valuing little things over things that are way more important. Mississippi is trying to make a good image in the eyes of our nation, but how will that happen if they are trying to break things down before they build up. For example, “UMMC strives to become a larger economic engine in the region.” However, the state is repeatedly cutting their budget.

  12. Shuchi Patel says:

    I agree with your idea increasing taxes for everyone; this might possibly be one of the few solutions. Like Kayla, I also came from a school that made ridiculous decisions. I came from a school that hired almost anyone, because good teachers do not want to teach there. My ninth grade English I teacher was a photographer. At the beginning of the year, she made us do practice problems. Later, we read TWO acts of Romeo and Juliet, which she could not explain the meanings of. This led her to make us watch the 1996 movie that would make the play “understandable.” I also had a horrible geometry teacher, who would make this post longer than it should be.

  13. Darby Meadows says:

    I feel like after seeing your blog I see that our government has many problems with budgeting. Raising taxes would sadly anger many people in the state even though its “less than many people spend per month on their smart phones and data plans”. So the state could try it, but they would hear many complaints. I don’t think citizens of the state understand the jobs that would be lost and the devastation to many communities with cutting programs and budgets.

  14. Landry Filce says:

    I believe that the distribution of the classes in Mississippi is even worse than it is on a national scale, that is to say that there is a large gap between the wealthy and the poor. The wealthy tend to put their children into private schools, which are far less beneficial to our state’s economy than public schools. Our state also mimics our nation’s problems in that the rich are not taxed nearly enough. They have mansions and summer homes and spend copious amounts of money on non-essentials while the poor of our state struggle to earn enough money to put food on the table at minimum wage jobs. Increasing taxes on the rich would not only solve some of the prevalent class divides in our state, but it would increase the economic prosperity of Mississippi as a whole. We should all be conscious of how our choices affect the economic state of our state, and strive to aid Mississippi. However, when people refuse to do this on their own, taxes are a surefire way of making sure that the prosperous give back to their community.

  15. Mariat Thankachan says:

    There are many things that we would like to fix, including the terrible roads and decreasing teacher salary, and it looks like the government is not realizing that there are these pressing matters that need to be managed instead of the minor details. However, increasing taxes on everyone would be challenging as people would think it is unfair. A reasonable thing to do would be to increase taxes on the rich, who can actually afford this increase in money coming out of their pocket. Some compromises will need to be made, the government should analyze what the people really need as opposed to what the government thinks the country wants.

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