That’s how long the Republican supermajority in the Mississippi Legislature has to right-size state government, rein in spending, increase accountability, and implement conservative reforms in education (chief among them restructuring MAEP and substantially consolidating districts), and possibly even revisit the 1890 constitution, to provide a foundation for the state’s future following a century of Democrat control.
We are now five sessions into a Republican majority in both chambers and a Republican governor. It’s now on us.
A legislative supermajority doesn’t just come around once in a blue moon or even once in a generation. This is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity for Republicans, and it isn’t likely to come again. The pendulum always swings.
For years, Republicans held that a handful of Democrats were what stopped real tax and government reform. That is no longer the case. This is what Republican leaders wanted, and voters gave it to them.
The tide will not get any higher for Mississippi Republicans than it is right now. And truthfully, it recedes lower everyday as 2019 approaches.
Given the continued economic struggles facing many Mississippians (a good bit of that being the drag on the national economy) and the narrative Democrats and the media are painting following the 2016 session, Republicans are not likely to maintain the historic supermajority they enjoy now come 2019.
It doesn’t take a ton of political effort to flip a seat or two in the House, which is all it would take. Mississippi Democrats are still pretty feckless, but they can probably band together to at least accomplish that much under soon to be new leadership.
So Republicans absolutely need to act as if there are only three more years of opportunity that cannot and should not be squandered by House and Senate leaders on what can only be described as fringe red meat legislation that panders to the base.
If we’re trying to be “the most business friendly state in the nation” that calculation isn’t just made on how we run our finances; it is all encompassing, and it involves what state government should and shouldn’t do to create a quality environment for all of its citizens.
State government is as big as it’s ever been and Republicans should seek to lessen it’s footprint.
As an example: some of our school districts have become glorified jobs programs. Some districts have nearly as many outside classroom personnel as they do teachers. Instead of 140 districts, we could drastically reduce them to perhaps half and save tens of millions of tax dollars annually by reducing duplication of services and taking advantage of efficiencies. Sure it’s politically hard, but if we really believe in the stuff we say (i.e. smaller government, fiscal responsibility, etc.) we can now do it.
If the 2016 session is any indication, it appears the Republican leadership, namely the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House, have not all sat down together and agreed on at least a minimal legislative agenda and overall budget plan.
Perhaps I’m wrong. I sincerely hope I am. But if you watched the last week of the legislative session, if there was a clear and coordinated plan, they hid it pretty well.
The best thing Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and Speaker Philip Gunn could do in this off session in to lock themselves in a room and hash out what the Republican agenda is going into the next three sessions, the three or four must have pieces of legislation that meets the overall goal of making the most of this opportunity. Then they can go out and actively sell it to Legislative leaders and the people of Mississippi, drafting a narrative and laying out a vision that adheres to the principles and values of the party each claim to support.
Anything other than a unified, conservative agenda with a real commitment to action and cooperation will be nothing more than political brinksmanship for personal gain, giving the Democrats an opening to pick up seats come 2019 and selling short the will of the voters who handed Republicans this unique opportunity.
We cannot have a Republican house divided against itself if we are going to create real reforms and lasting governmental change in Mississippi. It is past time to put aside the 10% that divides us ideologically and focus on the 90% that unites us in terms of practical governance. This IS the Republican opportunity.
This isn’t to minimize the good things accomplished this session, though they were obscured by the ink spilled on fringe items. Taxes were cut. Charter schools were made more accessible. Appointed school superintendents is a huge win. And the budget got balanced under some really difficult circumstances.
But the ball is squarely in our hands, and it’s time to do better.