Mississippi lawmakers should be reminded they represent all residents

Published 10:49 am Tuesday, January 2, 2018

By The Natchez Democrat Editorial Board

Lawmakers from all corners of Mississippi will head to Jackson today as the 2018 Legislature begins.

We urge lawmakers to put aside petty politics and remember an important fact — regardless of their own political preferences they represent all residents in their districts.

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Over the last two years, lawmakers have done a disservice to residents by keeping serious discussion and debate out of the public eye. That’s not how America or Mississippi should operate.

Issues expected to consume a considerable amount of lawmakers’ time will be the state’s budget and the state’s funding formula for education.

Both discussions will likely involve the reality that more money is needed than what will be available.

State lawmakers have been struggling to get their hands around the budget over the last couple of years after they’ve cut taxes, but not developed a good plan for reducing spending.

As a result, budgets were cut across the board — sometimes more than once in a single year — without much regard for what was most logically reduced. Those cuts drastically took away funding for some key state services such as mental health programs.

Last year, though no official bill was ever introduced, lawmakers were considering a complete overhaul of the state’s education funding equation. Critics feared those changes would severely disadvantage the state’s more rural and more economically challenged districts.

The state needs to revamp its education funding, but the problem may not be the equation, but the support given to whatever equation is set. For many, many years the current funding system has gone underfunded because of a lack of priority placed on education by the state’s leaders.

Mississippians know they deserve better. Let’s hope lawmakers believe so too.