Surplus funds at the Mississippi Capitol – When will our state’s fiscal priorities truly serve All Mississippians?

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By Chris Young,

Contributing Writer,

Mississippi is a red state. Our legislature is dominated by Republicans in both chambers – a total of 110, compared with 58 Democrats, and a few Independents, per their website. The make-up of the legislature, which is the result of the will of the voters, has resulted in a supermajority in both chambers; meaning if the Republicans want something, they can get it without any help from Democrats. 

We hear the terms conservative and liberal, and in our state, it seems as if being or leaning liberal is akin to something downright horrible. So, we have all these conservative Republican legislators that have a firm hold on power, and of course, we have our governor.

Despite having a supermajority of Republican legislators, we have things going on in Mississippi that make one wonder about these legislators’ belief in conservative values and principles. says that conservatism is a political doctrine that emphasizes the value of traditional institutions and practices. Clinging to tradition is a full-time endeavor in Mississippi – no doubt more valued than even the Egg Bowl. 

Holding on to yesterday has its costs though. A price is paid. The American dream evolves on a forward trajectory – inspiration, ingenuity, and advancement. In Mississippi we embrace a past that was devastating to a huge swath of our population, and now we are trying to restrict the telling of that past.

A few days ago, our governor sent this message on Twitter – “No country can survive if it raises its children to despise the inherent values upon which it was founded.” 

Among those values, especially in the Deep South, were systemic slavery and oppression, yet our governor attempts to whitewash that truth at every opportunity. The price that is paid is revealed in multiple ways for Mississippi. We are last in every meaningful ranking of progress. Hospitals are closing and more are in jeopardy of closing, most in areas of the state where poverty is highest. We continue to oppress African Americans, other people of color, and the poor. In the state with the largest percent of African American population per capita – 40 percent,  94 percent of our state agencies are headed by European Americans.

We are cutting income tax, which benefits wealthy people far more than poor people, yet our grocery tax is the highest in the whole country – even poor people need groceries. The enduring refrain in Mississippi is one of white supremacy – keeping African Americans from advancement and making sure our history is told in a manner which is favorable to European Americans, regardless of truth.

Running parallel to this backward thinking is our fiscal policy. There is so much talk now of having a budget surplus; somewhere between $1-2 billion, but how will it be spent? That really matters because we are a debtor state – receiving over 45 percent of our annual income from the federal government – is that the byproduct of being fiscally conservative? We are cutting income tax – when the state is four billion dollars  in debt and pays over $435 million a year to service the debt – is that sound fiscal policy? Is stealing federal funding earmarked specifically for the poorest among us – an immoral misuse of taxpayer dollars – is that a reflection of being fiscally conservative? Is this the way fiscal conservatives run their family budget? Is spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to preserve the Old State Capital in Jackson, where statistically, nearly four out of every ten people you pass on the street live in poverty? 

Folks that are conservative don’t spend more money than they make. They realize that spending what you want, regardless of having the money to pay for it, is the root cause of financial problems. Our conservative legislators, over time, seem to ignore that. 

The two states that are closest to Mississippi in population, per, are Arkansas with 3,021, 085 and Kansas with 2,946,356. Arkansas’ rate of population growth is .32 percent and Kansas’ is .29 percent. But Mississippi with 2,960,677 is losing population at a rate of .02 percent – not growth, but decline.

When discussing the governor’s recently published proposed budget for FY2024, local syndicated columnist Bill Crawford looks at the numbers in a column in The Northside Sun, entitled, “Can state afford income tax cut?” He detailed several areas where it seems unlikely that we can afford it. 

One part of his article that really merits extra attention is when Crawford quoted the governor’s recent press release – “We will build a future that every Mississippian can be proud of.” In response, Crawford shares from a recent United Way ALICE project (Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed) report. The report stated, “It is estimated that in 2021 that 50 percent of Mississippi households were left out or left behind – 19 percent living below the poverty line plus another 31 percent too poor to afford the basics of housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care, and technology due to low wages.”

A debtor state, receiving forty-five percent of its annual revenue from the federal government, and being in debt four billion dollars, and in the process of eliminating the revenues from income tax, while over-taxing groceries that are essential to all human beings, is not a state that all Mississippians can be proud of. Nor is it fiscally conservative. Nor are we moving out of last place.

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