Mississippi Businesses Support Schools, Oppose Initiative 42

Mississippi business leaders are issuing the follow open letter to Mississippians. Please consider running in your newspaper as a column and/or letter to the editor.

An Open Letter to Mississippians:

We represent job creators across Mississippi; from mom-and-pop businesses to manufacturers, farmers to physicians, the people who built the roads in your town, owners and employees of some of your favorite restaurants, the contractors that build homes, the Realtors who sell homes and the bankers that make home ownership possible. Our members, spread across our State, are focused on growing the economy to provide opportunities for all Mississippians.

Like our fellow citizens, we are all committed to public education. We recognize that the success of our schools is integral to the long-term economic vitality of our State. That’s why you see our members, who live and work in your community, at PTA meetings, volunteering in the classroom and at Friday night ballgames. That’s why we invest heavily in our local schools, both financially and with our time.

So why are Mississippi’s businesses against Initiative 42, a ballot measure that amends the section of the state constitution dealing with schools?

After a review of the proposed constitutional amendment and consulting with multiple experts, we do not believe Initiative 42 satisfies its stated intent. For starters, the amendment does not actually mention funding. The amendment says nothing about a “phase-in.” Instead, Initiative 42 creates a broad new “adequate and efficient” standard for our schools and creates a power for chancery courts to “enforce” this standard. Because of venue rules currently in place, suits against the State under 42 would be brought in Hinds County.

Simply put, if Initiative 42 passes, a judge in Hinds County will take away your opportunity for meaningful input into the future of your children’s school district.

This transfer of power could deeply damage our economy and result in the kind of uncertainty that impedes business growth. The Legislative Budget Office has completed a fiscal analysis that indicates Initiative 42 could immediately result in a $201 million gap in our state budget due to increased funding for our state’s education formula (“MAEP”). The Legislative Budget Office’s analysis also points out that the new judicial power could be used to say that even MAEP was not enough, in which case the economic impact could be even more significant, and entirely unpredictable.

Increased income and property taxes on our residents to cover a court order would stifle growth. Increased permitting and licensing fees that our members pay in order to do business in Mississippi would mean fewer jobs and higher costs for our customers. Cuts to colleges and universities, health care programs, state aid for roads, law enforcement, homestead exemption reimbursements and many other important programs would not only be hurtful to many Mississippians, but would have an impact on our ability to expand existing business and attract new business.

Our opposition to judicial control of our schools is not an endorsement of the “status quo.” Education is and should be a priority. We should elect legislators who view it that way and we should work with them and our local school officials to ensure that appropriate resources are made available and are spent wisely.

• Ron Aldridge, State Director of National Federation of Independent Business and Executive Vice President/General Counsel of Mississippi Beverage Association
• Mike Cashion, Executive Director of Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association
• Andrea Inman Detrick, 2015 President of the Mississippi REALTORS
• Randy Easterling, M.D., Chair of Business and Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC)
• C.J. “Buddy” Edens, President of Mississippi Associated Builders and Contractors
• Tone Garrett, Executive Director of Mississippi Asphalt Pavement Association
• Dan Gibson, Mississippians for Self-Insurance
• Mark Leggett, President of Mississippi Poultry Association
• Marty Milstead, Executive Vice President of Home Builders Association of Mississippi
• Jay Moon, President and CEO of Mississippi Manufacturers Association
• Mike Pepper, Executive Director of Mississippi Road Builders’ Association