Budgeter: Medicaid growth hurts education funding

Funding for education is falling short because Medicaid is devouring a larger share of state money than it did a few years ago, a top Mississippi budget writer said in a letter to teachers and school administrators.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, wrote expanding Medicaid would create more uncertainty about funding for all levels of education, from kindergarten through universities.

“Do you think we should expand the Medicaid program knowing how it may cost the educational community?” Frierson wrote. “Can the educational institutions afford not to take a position on the expansion of the Medicaid program?”

But a Democrat who used to be a budget writer disputes the premise of Frierson’s letter. Rep. Cecil Brown of Jackson said in an interview Wednesday money for education has fallen short because of many financial choices, including giving tax breaks to corporations and setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the state’s financial reserves.