The leaders of the Mississippi Legislature, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, have submitted what many in the media are calling an “austere budget.”
It’s maybe austere if your definition of austerity is a 1.3 percent cut to the state’s general fund budget. It’s still a shade under $6 billion. The fiscal 2019 budget proposal will mark the second consecutive year that the state will cut its budget. To hear critics, it’s like Reeves and Gunn are the twin Republican grinches who seek only to starve the poor while giving tax breaks to their corporate buddies.
It’s a view not grounded in reality, especially when one looks at the budget cycles before 2018 and 2019.
Republicans love to talk about limited government, but how limited is Mississippi’s government when state budgets have increased 25 percent between 2012 and 2017 after the GOP took charge of the Legislature? The nation’s rate of inflation grew between 3 percent and 2.5 percent during that time.
It’s little wonder that our state is ranked 10th nationally by Governing magazine in the number of full-time state employees per 10,000 residents. Cutting more than 2,700 open positions should be the start of a conversation on how much of a public sector does this state really require.