Education and eliminating Mississippi’s income tax is at the top of Governor Tate Reeves’ budget agenda for the upcoming fiscal year.
Governor Tate Reeves says he's looking to bolster education in the state by investing more in education. He says improving educational attainment is a critical part of moving Mississippi forward economically. He’s proposing a $1,300 teacher pay raise for next year and $1,000 increases for the following two years to attract and retain instructors. Reeves says the increase will make Mississippi’s salaries more competitive with other states. The Southern Regional Education Board reports the average teacher salary in Mississippi is $45,000 per year, $3,000 to $12,000 less than neighboring states.
“This $3,300 raise, which the first year will cost approximately $71 million will result in Mississippi going from 37th to 21st,” Reeves said.
Reeves’ education proposals also include $3 million for math coaches. He says there has been a decline in math scores and many of the jobs of the future require math proficiency. Two million dollars would be used for computer science training for teachers with a coordinator for training housed at the state department of education. Computer science must be taught in all Mississippi public schools by the 2024-2025 school year.
In addition, Reeves is calling for the legislature to ban critical race theory which centers on the premise that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and functions to maintain white supremacy. There is no evidence the theory is taught in Mississippi public schools.
Another agenda item, phase out the state’s income tax over five years, eliminating the 4 percent bracket next year. Reeves added he's not married to his five year plan. He is willing to work with the legislature on a solution that would end the tax sooner or a few years later. But Reeves says it’s necessary to phase the tax out in order to compete with neighboring states like Tennessee. He uses DeSoto County as an example, where he says the population is growing.
“When you talk to the economic developers up there, to the business leaders up there, they believe our population growth would be significantly more if we weren’t competing literally across the state line with a state that had no income tax,” Reeves said.
The governor notes the state’s overall population declined from 2013-2019 and attracting people will help grow the economy. Reeves is also allocating funds for workforce development and $5 million to double the number of capitol police officers to 150.
Some of allocations Reeves proposes such as $200 million for broadband expansion and a $100 million water and sewer grant program would come from the $1.8 billion the state is receiving from the American Rescue Plan Act.