Senate Chooses Tax Cuts Over School Funding

Posted 3/17/2015

Well, friends, we got our answer...

In today's debate over corporate tax cuts and adequate school funding, a majority of senators chose tax cuts.

They passed a bill containing $550-million in tax cuts, which would remove enough revenue from the state budget to ensure that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) is never fully funded and that colleges, universities, roads, bridges, and myriad other state services will likely see budget cuts. 

Sen. Derrick Simmons offered an amendment to delay implementation of the tax cuts until the MAEP is fully funded, giving senators an opportunity to demonstrate that education truly is their priority. That amendment was defeated on a 16-34 vote. See that vote here.  The Senate went on to pass the $550-million tax cut package as well as four smaller tax-cut bills this afternoon. 

As I reported earlier today, a majority of the Senate voted this morning to send the K-12 funding bill straight to Governor Bryant for his signature ahead of the rest of the budget bills. HB 1536 under-funds the MAEP by more than $200-million. The funding in this bill beyond what is required for the well-deserved teacher pay raise is below the 2008 level. An amendment was offered by Senator Hob Bryan that would have increased funding and sent the bill to conference, but the amendment failed on a vote of 20-31. See that vote here

The usual course of events with budget bills is to send them all to conference to allow legislators to take advantage of the latest possible revenue projections; the Senate action denies K-12 this opportunity. Typically, the Revenue Estimating Committee and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee meet late in the session, resulting in an increase in the revenue estimate based upon the most recent tax receipts, and making additional funding available for appropriation. 

House members have told us that they assumed HB 1536 would go to conference and that additional funding would be considered. Many were stunned and angered by the Senate action to avoid conference negotiations on the bill.

The K-12 funding bill will now go to the governor, and the massive tax-cut bill will go back to the House. We need for Governor Bryant to veto the school funding bill and force legislators to start over.

Please ask Governor Bryant to veto HB 1536, the K-12 funding bill, so that legislators can send him a bill that provides our children's schools what they must have to operate effectively. 

Gov. Phil Bryant  601.359.3150

Ask your representative to vote NOT to concur on HB 1629, the tax cut bill.

Click here to find contact information for the legislators who represent your school district.

Speaker Gunn  Capitol: 601.359.3300

This year, legislators should have more money to appropriate than was available last year. Much of it seems to have evaporated; taxpayers should ask legislators what happened to it. In pushing to increase MAEP funding during today's Senate debate, Senator Bryan gave us a clue when he said, "So there's recurring money that is available that we're simply pretending isn't there due to accounting maneuvers."

The leadership argued that they were doing all that was possible toward meeting their obligation to provide our children an adequate education. School districts, meanwhile, have run out of funding options. They have depleted their reserves, and many of them are at the local tax levy cap. Districts have spent millions updating their curricula and materials to comply with the Common Core State Standards, only to be told that those standards will be thrown out. Unfunded mandates have created additional burdens, and districts are at the ends of their ropes. Schools are unable to replace outdated textbooks, buses are aging, and vital programs are on the chopping block. It is simply unconscionable for legislators to shrug off providing for our children's education in favor of tax cuts.

It is impossible to understand how leaders can justify giving away hundreds of millions of tax dollars when they claim that sufficient revenue is not available to adequately fund public schools. 

You've raised your voice many times during this session, and now we need you to do so again! Make those calls to the governor's office and to your representative. Our kids are counting on us to speak up for them.