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Issues important in this election

As I See It

The election will be upon us in a matter of days. Some small minority of us who take our civic responsibilities seriously will select our state’s leaders for the next four years. Unfortunately, those elected will not necessarily represent the choice of the majority of Mississippi’s qualified voters since voter turnout is traditionally small. This is a good time to buck that trend and make the effort to get out and vote.

Term limits will be on the ballot. It is a bad idea and should be firmly rejected. The voters should not have any limitations placed on their choices of elected officials. In the same vain, Mississippi needs open primaries to remove the last obstacle to complete voter choice.

The governor’s race is said to be running neck and neck between the two major candidates, Mike Parker and Ronnie Musgrove. There is a large group of “undecideds” who will determine the outcome of the election.

The governor of Mississippi is a much less powerful position than might be expected. Actually, the lieutenant governor is the powerhouse in state government. Nonetheless, the governor is the leader of the state and occupies a very important position. We should select the candidate who best fulfills our vision for Mississippi’s future. Rhetoric aside, look to Musgrove’s record as lieutenant governor and Parker’s record in the Congress to decide which is most likely to provide the leadership Mississippi needs to move our state forward.

The selection of lieutenant governor is possibly the most important vote to be cast. Due to the structure of our legislative process, the lieutenant governor exerts tremendous influence over which bills ultimately become law.

Mississippi faces a number of issues that need a political solution over the next four years. Education and workforce training, health care, transportation, economic development and tax issues seem to occupy center stage.

In my opinion, education is the number one problem in Mississippi today. Last year the Legislature passed a significant teacher pay raise which I applaud. With increased pay comes increased responsibility, and it is now time to implement a system of teacher accountability. Part and parcel of increased accountability should be a system of merit pay for teachers. Teacher unions will likely oppose both of these ideas.

Vouchers or no vouchers? In a largely rural state like ours, I don’t understand how a voucher system for school choice would work. Without public transportation, what good would it do to give a kid in Merigold a voucher to attend Harvard University? How’s he going to get there?

More money for computers in schools? Increasing our investment in access to technology for our children is expensive and necessary. Otherwise, our graduates will not be equipped to function in today’s world.

Workforce training should be consolidated under the community colleges rather than continue to be fractionalized over six state agencies. Our existing workforce must be constantly retrained to do higher paying jobs if our per capita income is going to rise, to the benefit of all.

Health care price inflation and access to health care affects everyone. Mississippi should license physician assistants to increase access to health care in rural areas. We are the only state in the union who does not license physician assistants.

We do not need a new state department of labor. We already have too much government, and adding a new agency would needlessly bloat the system.

We have enjoyed an unprecedented surge in the area of economic development. The Department of Economic and Community Development should be removed from the political arena to provide continuity between administrations. Look carefully at who the gubernatorial candidates might appoint to head this important agency.

Taxes are too high in Mississippi. An across the board tax cut is not the answer. The entire system should be overhauled. Part of that overhaul should be elimination of the evil inventory tax that penalizes merchants for not selling their wares.

These are some of the issues that the new state leadership must grapple with. What are the various candidates saying and how do you feel about the issues? The November election is the opportunity to speak and make your voice heard. Please make the effort to vote.

THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

– JAMES 4:17

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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