Should Initiative 42 pass in November the consensus of the Mississippi Senate and House leadership seems to be that state legislative budget chairmen in both chambers, chief among them Rep. Herb Frierson, will seek to immediately fully fund MAEP to inoculate themselves as much as possible from potential litigation that is likely to result from its passage. That was the word from Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Greg Snowden on Thursday.
Snowden, appearing on SuperTalk’s Paul Gallo Show, discussed this very scenario and its effects on other state agency budget lines should 42 pass.
If 42 passes, Frierson is prepared to ask for the 7.8% across the board cut heading into the 2016 legislative session in hopes that doing so will show a good faith effort so when school districts and education lobbyists begin filing lawsuits, perhaps as early as this December, less taxpayer dollars will have to be expended to fight frivolous litigation led by Democrat trial lawyers seeking to bypass the normal legislative appropriation process.
The one thing Republican legislators do not want is for a chancery court in one part of the state to usurp their appropriation authority, removing the voice of the people’s elected representatives in favor of a judge who will then seek to determine the meanings of “adequate” and “efficient” while placing a dollar amount on the priorities he or she alone mandates as necessities based on the evidence trial lawyers – likely funded by taxpayers – bring before their bench.
Pro42ers have unbelievably categorized this policy position as a “threat,” saying that fully funding MAEP and preparing state agencies to face a significant budget cut are “scare tactics.”
But isn’t that exactly what backers of Initiative 42 are asking for? They are adamantly pro-K12, other state budget lines (Medicaid, mental health services, corrections, higher education, public safety, etc.) be damned.
Yes, they claim their “phase in” plan addresses this, but in reality that notion is not in the constitutional amendment, just as there is no reference to funding. It’s just a parenthetical sidenote. Had they intended for it to be followed they would have included it in their amendment wording, codifying it into law.
Pro42ers are only looking out for their one love. Legislators don’t have that luxury.
Yet, this is nothing new when considering the dire fiscal realities Democrats handed off to Republicans when the majorities shifted. Democrats’ “Spend now, Pray later” budgeting philosophy left Mississippi struggling, using one time funds for reoccurring expenses while increasing bond debt, all the while with little thought given to the future.
Republican leadership changed all of that. Even longtime outspoken Democrat Rep. Steve Holland recognizes the change was for the better. On Gallo last week, Holland, referring to the health of our state budget, said, “We’ve managed well, thanks to our Republican brothers.”
And truth be told that really irks the Democrat faithful.
It appears that since legislative Democrats cannot win back the majority, and they seem to know it at this point, Initiative 42 is their Hail Mary at controlling a huge piece of the state budget pie while padding the pockets of their most ardent supporters – trial lawyers and education lobbyists.
Productive education funding and policy debates usually have some element of bipartisanship, but this Initiative 42 fight splits straight down the political fault line in Mississippi splitting Democrats and Republicans.
That’s too bad… Long ago this stopped being about children.