Republican mailers mislead voters

JACKSON (Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007) – The Mississippi Republican Party is distorting GOP Gov. Haley Barbour’s record in a series of direct mail pieces that are being circulated days before the Aug. 7 party primaries.

One mailing credits Barbour’s leadership with increasing funds during his term for kindergarten through 12th grade schools. The bulk of the increases, however, funded a teacher pay raise approved before he took office under the leadership of Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

“And don’t forget: Haley also staunchly fought full funding for K through 12th grade schools during his first three years in office,” said Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Dowdy, referring to Barbour’s opposition to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or the MAEP.

“Haley and the Republicans continue to misrepresent his record on public education – which is questionable at best,” Dowdy said. “Democrats have to set the record straight and let Mississippi voters know the truth about education funding and Haley’s record. We won’t let the voters fall for the Republican Party’s dirty tricks, political games and half-truths.”

Here is a look at the direct mail pieces’ claims and the facts:

• The claims: Under Barbour’s leadership, K-12 funding has increased $529 million – the largest increase in K-12 spending in any four-year period in state history. Teacher salaries have increased by more than 20 percent.

• The facts: K-12 spending has increased with much of it used to help fund a multi-year teacher pay raise package approved under Musgrove’s leadership. Barbour is taking credit for something with which he had nothing to do. Besides that, Barbour fought against, and lobbied lawmakers against, full funding for the MAEP during his first three years in office. He planned to do the same in the 2007 Legislature, but abruptly changed his mind days before the session started in January.

• The claims: Under Barbour’s leadership, state support for universities has increased by 32 percent and support for community colleges has increased by 52 percent.

• The facts: While state support for universities and community colleges has increased, it hasn’t stopped the eight state universities from increasing tuition this fall. Perhaps the increase wasn’t enough under Barbour’s leadership. While Barbour has been quick to call special legislative sessions to give tax breaks for economic development projects, he has refused to call a session to give a break to students who are paying the higher tuition and their parents who are financing their children’s higher education.
• The claims: While “liberals in the media and the Legislature were calling for tax increases to fix the state budget mess,” Barbour led the effort to balance the budget without raising anyone’s taxes.

• The facts: The Republican direct mail piece implies Mississippi had a budget deficit, which is not true; state law requires a balanced state budget. While the state economy was down early in Barbour’s term, no one in the Legislature called for tax increases to balance the budget. Barbour actually had a chance to reduce state taxes when lawmakers passed bills in 2006 and 2007 to eliminate or cut the state’s 7 percent sales tax on food. Those proposals also would have raised the cigarette tax from 18 cents to $1 a pack. But Barbour, a former tobacco lobbyist, vetoed the bills in 2006 and then had a Republican ally in the state Senate kill the issue in committee this year.

“These examples show how Republicans in Mississippi are willing to distort the facts, mislead the people and say and do anything to win an election,” Dowdy said. “We will continue to point out Haley’s record on the issues so voters know the truth.”

MS Democratic Party