Education, transportation issues top first half of sessionBy NOAH SANFORD,
We are about halfway through the legislation session, and the House of Representatives has passed nearly all legislation onto the Senate, with deadlines remaining only for tax and spending bills.
The single most important piece of legislation that passed through the House was a revamp of the funding formula used to fund K-12 public schools. The proposal was loosely based on a roadmap that a nonprofit consulting group, EdBuild, recommended to House leaders. The proposal passed by a rather slim, 12-vote margin and now is in the Senate, where it can be tweaked or changed completely. It is my hope that the Senate will fix a few major flaws that were in the House version—namely, how the formula measures both the number of students in poverty and whether districts are considered rural. These flaws kept me from supporting the proposal on the House floor.
The House of Representatives has again passed bills aimed at easing the infrastructure woes faced by counties and municipalities. During the very first week of the session, we voted overwhelming to send more than $100 million of revenue generated from “use taxes”—money collected primarily through online sales—back to counties and cities for road and bridge repair. This, too, now waits action in a Senate committee. It appears that the federal government is now working on an infrastructure plan that will include state and local governments, and Gov. Phil Bryant has announced his wish that Mississippi wait to act until we see what Congress does on the issue.
Tax revenues seem to have improved from the last few years of weak tax collections, and this is a good thing. Increasing revenues is a sign of an improving economy. Further, there are many government institutions that have really been hurt from cuts, including mental health, education, and the like.
The main driver of state government spending over the last several years has been Medicaid, the state-run health insurance program primarily for poor children and elderly. Medicaid costs to the state now top $1 billion, and growing. The Legislature is looking at several ways to help slow or even reverse this trend.
We now will begin taking up Senate bills, first in committee and then on the House floor. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to serve, and I will continue to look out for average, taxpaying Mississippians. Please contact me if I can be of assistance.
Rep.Sanford represents parts of Covington, Simpson, and Jefferson Davis Counties in the Mississippi House of Representatives. He can be reached at 601-765-4122 or NSanford@house.ms.gov.