Preventing tax cuts protects all interests

March 27, 2015
Reilly Morse

Revenue from tax collections is how we keep our public schools open and our public infrastructure and systems functioning for all Mississippians. These things don’t magically pay for themselves. In blocking a massive $555 million election year tax cut, 52 Mississippi legislators correctly recognized the need to keep intact the revenues necessary for public schools and other public institutions that government is expected to maintain.

There is every reason to spurn the legislative leadership’s forecasts of swift trickle down economic gains that would offset revenue losses from these tax cuts. Similar confident predictions have failed in Kansas and North Carolina, and their large tax cuts have led to crushing budget disasters. And there also is every reason to distrust our state’s leaders to follow such a law if the growth doesn’t materialize — they act with impunity. Our public school system is in systemic crisis due to the chronic disregard of a mandatory duty to fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Can you imagine what slippery excuses this state’s leaders would use to hold on to these tax cuts if enacted, no matter the consequences? If today we are fed up with 50th, imagine how much further in the hole we’d be if 52 legislators had not held the line on the current level of funding for state government as a whole.

With Mississippi’s economy and tax revenues improving modestly for several years since a major recession, now is the time to reinvigorate our state institutions and infrastructure with resources to solve problems that have been put off for too long. Now is not the time to give away the tax base necessary to educate our children to work in Mississippi and ensure safe roads and bridges for all of us to use, including Mississippi businesses bringing their goods to market.

Too many of our education institutions have been bleeding for years because the state lacked sufficient revenue to adequately fund them. School districts can’t afford more erosion of public education funding — many are already teetering on the edge of financial instability. If the tax cuts had passed, these funds were likely to become even thinner and school districts more vulnerable. Nor can medical facilities afford this erosion, particularly the badly strapped rural medical facilities left dangling by the unconscionable refusal of our state’s leaders to expand Medicaid or enact similar alternatives. Arkansas and Kentucky today enjoy significant budget savings and revenue gains because they embraced this extraordinary opportunity. It almost seems as though our leadership is trying to drive Mississippi lower than 50th, doesn’t it?

Supporters of tax cuts may campaign on a platform that they tried to return excess revenue to the citizens and businesses of Mississippi. But we should gather in a resounding show of support for these stalwart 52 legislators who recognized that the state’s “excess” revenues more accurately represent an opportunity to bring needed resources back to a pre-recession level.

Reilly Morse is president of the Mississippi Center for Justice.