Pender: Legislators aren’t aliens; they are us

Both sides in this debate have made valid arguments, and both sides have been full of malarkey with some of their tactics and threats and promises and of what will or won’t happen if 42 passes or fails.

But I personally keep coming back to several points:

There is already a remedy for the Legislature underfunding public schools: Elect new legislators. For those who say 42 would not usurp the Legislature’s education budget authority I ask, what then — pray tell — is its point?
K-12 education in Mississippi is underfunded — and they all said, “Amen.” But is there something here that’s overfunded? Are we spending too much on health care? Universities? Mental health? Roads? Taxpayer dollars are finite. Where would we cut if another recession hits?

Proponents of 42 have charitably said they’d give lawmakers up to seven years to fully fund education using as little as 25 percent of revenue growth each year. But the Legislature has for the last three years put more than 25 percent — closer to 30 percent — of new revenue into public education. So if the Legislature is already doing what they want, why this now?

Proponents say that if lawmakers fully fund MAEP, there won’t be lawsuits. But MAEP, like the above-mentioned phase-in, isn’t in the language that would go into the constitution. The courts could say less than full MAEP funding is OK, or could say double that is needed. And lawsuits — that will be left to the charity of the trial bar despite any promises. There will be lawsuits.

Geoff Pender
Clarion Ledger
10/25/15