Mississippi lawmakers are assessing the outcome of 2017 legislative session. The Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House are sharing their opinions on the budget and what likes ahead.
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves says they prioritized spending making public safety and education major issues. The Senate didn't introduce a new public education funding formula but instead put money into the current Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Faced with tax revenues below projections, almost all state agencies endured four-mid-year tax cuts and a reduction in funding for next year. Reeves says the focus remained on education, including funding several programs.
"We passed an expansion of the Dyslexia Scholarship Program. We expanded that to include grades 7 through 12. We also required schools to teach cursive writing to students. We passed the Able Act which allows families to establish tax-exempt accounts to fund care for individuals with disabilities," said Reeves.
Legislators devoted $20 million to an incentive program that rewards schools that improve by one letter grade. House Speaker Philip Gunn says they have a draft of a new funding plan some legislators have seen, but it's a work in progress. He also talked about funding a trooper school.
"We have struggled to keep up with the attrition that occurs in our highway patrol. The numbers I get indicate that if everybody who could retire did retire we would be about half of what we need out there. So, even with the trooper school I think all we're going to be doing is just keeping up we're really not going to be adding," said Gunn.
Both men cite the importance of passing campaign finance reform and Back the Badge, a law that enhances penalties for violent crimes against police officer and other first responders. Reeves wouldn't support Gunn's plan to use existing internet sales tax to fund road and bridges. So, funding for the department of transportation will be hashed-out in a special session.