November 28, 2020

Tate Reeves’ proposed budget bumps teacher pay, no more prison funding

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has released his budget proposal that includes pay raises for teachers and no additional money for the troubled state prison system.

Reeves is recommending a $1,500 salary bump for teachers during the coming school year. That’s $500 more than a proposal being considered by the state Senate.
Reeves’ pay recommendation is part of his proposed state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

In the plan released Friday, Reeves recommends that the state spend the same amount on the Department of Corrections in the coming year as in the current year.

The state prison system was rocked by violence in recent weeks, and corrections officials have requested money to repair buildings that are in poor condition. Reeves has said Mississippi needs to improve its prison system.

“We do not want to blindly request an increase to achieve a vague ambition.,” Reeves wrote in his budget. “We want to ask for targeted investment.”

The governor said he’s asking the state Department of Finance and Administration to analyze Corrections spending.

“We anticipate that we will need to work continuously with the Legislature throughout the upcoming session to properly determine the exact funding necessary to achieve our broader reforms,” Reeves said. “That cannot be done until we shed more light on the inner financial workings of the department.”

Teachers are receiving a $1,500 pay raise in the current school year, which was approved by lawmakers during the election-year session of 2019.

Many politicians, including Reeves, campaigned on promises to further increase teacher salaries that have long been among the lowest in the U.S.

“As we continue to work with the Legislature, my priority is simple: We should pay our teachers as much as we can possibly afford,” Reeves wrote in the budget narrative. “I will be happy to support any raise that they believe accomplishes that vital task.”

Writing a state budget is a long process. Legislators conducted budget hearings and started analyzing agencies’ requests several months ago.

In December, the 14-member Joint Legislative Budget Committee released its recommendations for a nearly $6.3 billion state budget.

That would be nearly $94 million less than the state is set to spend during the current year, about a 1.5% decrease.

Reeves was lieutenant governor the past eight years, and he was a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee when it made its recommendations. He was inaugurated as governor on Jan. 14.

Legislators who write the budget often ignore suggestions made by governors. All 122 House members and all 52 senators will get to vote on budget details by early May.

Reeves recommends spending $100 million for workforce training.

“We must help workers to compete for quality, high-paying jobs,” he wrote. “We must train them for the jobs of the future, so that they can achieve more prosperity for their families.

Reeves also recommends that Mississippi put more money into a classroom supply fund, that the state increase the supplement for teachers who earn and maintain national board certification and that the state provide bonuses for teachers who work in under-served areas.