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Will Mississippi get the short end of the stimulus?

One of the concerns about the proposed economic stimulus package, at least from states like Mississippi, is that rural states will not be getting its fair share compared to other states.

But as Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, told a group of reporters last week the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is not leaving out Southern and rural states.

“There is attention being given to small and rural states,” Barnes said. “Specifically, in regard to broadband, it is an effort to try and make sure that individuals and businesses in rural areas have access to 21st century infrastructure and technology.”

Part of the plan for Mississippi is to create or save 32,300 jobs over the next two years. Jobs created would be in a range of industries from clean energy to healthcare, with more than 90 percent in the private sector.

“If you look at Mississippi as a whole,” Barnes said, “the bill provides for pay tax cut of up to $1,000 for 1,000,000 workers and their families to shore up their savings, to shore up their household economies and to make sure they can make through this economic downturn.

“We are also looking providing funding, sufficient to modernizing at least 135 schools in Mississippi,” Barnes continued. “This is so that children going to school there will get a better education as we try to move all of our public schools forward.”

Barnes went on to say that the White House has been thoughtful about the impacts that this bill will have across the board.

“We certainly haven’t preferenced urban areas over rural areas,” Barnes said. “But we have been thoughtful about what the needs are in rural America as we try to move this bill forward.”

The question of states like Mississippi or Alabama or others getting less is valid, but Gov. Haley Barbour has said that he believes Mississippi could get more money than it needs.

He also has said that he would take a careful look at what Mississippi could get from the federal government before actually accepting any money.

Mississippi, like most states, however, is in need. Our unemployment is the highest it has been since immediately after Hurricane Katrina, and more jobs are on the chopping block.

But to look at Mississippi is to look at a state in which many areas (Southwest and Delta) have been in recession or depresssion-like states for many years or even decades.

While crazy spending for the sake of spending isn’t the answer, there or lots of problems that this stimulus package can help solve.

Education is one of them. In many areas, we have crumbling schools with not enough teachers or books or enough money to pay the light bill.

The estimated $2.7 billion Mississippi is expected to get from the stimulus package certainly isn’t enough to cure all our ills, from education to transportation to obesity to poverty, but we could certainly use a leg up in order to better ourselves.

We take Barnes and the White House at their word that any stimulus package is not short changing the smaller states of America.

We also hope our state and national leaders look at the whole picture before deciding one way or the other about this stimilus package.

Contact MBJ managing editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com.

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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