DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE TO THE GOVERNOR’S STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS
Given by Rep. Jay Hughes
“The state of the state is “Same Old, Same Old.”
I love my Mississippi, but the simple facts are that we’re still:
Last in education;
Last in mental health & health care access;
First in poverty,
and first in the brain drain of our young graduates.
If we’re number one in problems, then we ought to be number one in solutions.
Unfortunately, the policies that impact our quality of life have merely gone unchanged and underfunded.
Simply ignoring a problem is not a solution.
Over half of Mississippi towns are smaller than 1,500 people, and a Golden Shovel Award doesn’t educate our children or put food on the table in your average Mississippi home.
So, let’s talk about six real problems and six real solutions:
Our first problem is equality in public education:
The simple reality is that there’s absolutely no equality with the type of school buildings, classroom supplies or technology from one district to the next.
This division has continued to keep Mississippi in last place.
Every single school should have at least the exact same basic resources for the children — not one school district having new computers and robotics machines, and the school district next door having and calculators and popsicle sticks.
We are also testing students to death! Testing is not teaching! It is nothing but profits for testing corporations and campaign contributions for politicians.
A simple solution for equal and better public schools is to quit playing games with funding!
As Gov. Barbour and Gov. Bryant have both proclaimed before privatization dollars came to Jackson: Education is not an expense, it is an economic investment, and the best one we can make!
But, politicians who don’t have a clue about classrooms just can’t leave it alone!
It doesn’t matter what the legislators name a new formula if they are not going to fund it every single year.
Stop the standardized testing, and stop the exit exams! Let our students take the ACT that Taxpayers are already paying for.
Let the teachers have freedom to teach – just like they get to do at the Charter Schools that big campaign donors love so dearly.
Our second problem is needing real jobs in all communities, not just the lucky ones.
Part-Time Minimum Wage jobs without benefits do not lift anyone out of poverty.
Imagine if instead of hundreds of millions in tax cuts to foreign corporations that are already here, we gave State-Guaranteed Expansion Loans to Mississippi Main Street companies, like Wamble Machine Shop or McCurdy Construction. The jobs those companies create are real and local jobs.
Our third problem is the brain drain –Mississippi losing our graduates to other states faster than any other state.
You shouldn’t have to go to another state to visit your children and grandchildren.
Sure, the Mississippi unemployment rate is the lowest in years – but so is the rest of the country’s. The real problem is that our unemployment rate is still one of the highest in the nation, and even worse for our 20-24 year olds at 14.3% – which is why we are losing them to Atlanta and Nashville.
Imagine if instead of corporate tax cuts, we offered Mississippi Main Street Companies that, for three years, we would cover the health insurance of each Mississippi graduate they hire and keep employed.
Or, imagine if we were to repay the student loans each year for Mississippi college graduates that go back to work in the Mississippi hometown where they graduated high school.
Our fourth problem is lack of educated workforce.
This has been absolutely obvious for years, without wasting scarce tax dollars to conduct a politically self-serving study. It would have been better to spend those tax dollars to help lift everyone in all communities:
First, every single Mississippi high school graduate should have one year of free community college, career/technical or on the job training.
Second, give every high school graduate a free chance to attend our community colleges and become certified as a plumber, electrician, or many other jobs, and actually stay in and contribute to their home community?
Our fifth key problem is ranking last again in mental Health:
Simply put, our leaders must quit pretending that mental health or addiction are choices, and treat them for what they are: Mental Illness that impacts them, their families and their communities. But, because of tax cuts, those in need end up in our jails and prisons, instead of getting help.
A nice start would be paying these workers above minimum wage, and increasing community programs involvement in mental health treatment.
Our sixth problem is the tax shift to our local communities so politicians in Jackson can claim “We Shrank Government.”
The simplest solution is to stop the tax shift!
Start returning 18.5% of sales taxes collected in the county back to the counties for road and bridges in all 82 counties.
Increase the cities’ sales tax diversion back to 20% for more local control.
Also return to the counties one-half of the home insurance premium tax for firefighting service improvement so everyone gets lower home insurance rates.
Finally, quit cutting basic services and forcing the school districts, counties, and cities to raise local taxes to provide the necessary services.
These are real solutions that improve real lives and the state of the state.
Unfortunately, these solutions don’t have lobbyists or campaign donors.
We have the money in the Capitol Building in Jackson – just the wrong priorities.
Good Night, God Bless America and the Great State of Mississippi!