More proposed state budget cuts

A number of prominent Republican candidates, including incoming Gov. Tate Reeves and incoming Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, spent this year’s election cycle talking about ambitious plans for raising teacher pay, to name one issue that will require an investment of more tax dollars.

And then the Joint Legislative Budget Committee came along recently and undercut those campaign promises with a proposed budget that actually reduces state spending.

Reeves is a member of the committee and said it wanted to give the new Legislature, which takes office in January, “maximum flexibility” with next year’s budget.

They certainly did that, recommending nearly $6.3 billion in spending for the budget year that begins July 1. That’s actually $94 million less than the state plans to spend during the current year, a figure that belies the campaign claims that an improving economy is increasing tax revenue.

From a political standpoint, it’s pretty clear that the committee intentionally low-balled its spending recommendation in a very substantial manner. That way, the new legislators will be the group that looks good — when it announces a few months from now that because tax revenue is increasing, the state can allocate more money for teacher pay and any other needs the Legislature chooses to address.

This is understandable. The outgoing budget committee is doing a favor for the incoming group by setting a very low bar. While the proposal carries no weight at all, it is still sending a mixed message by proposing to reduce state spending after candidates talked a lot about finally being willing and able to address various elements that have been shortchanged.

The recent proposal actually called for an increase of less than one percent in public school spending, while spending for community colleges and universities would decrease. If the current budget committee was serious about that, then it’s probably a good thing a new group is coming in next month. And if it wasn’t serious with its budget proposal, then in all honesty, why bother?

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