We keep hearing — over and over and over again — what a wonderful atmosphere there is in Mississippi for business. The Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House love to talk about how cutting taxes is going to save the world and bring more business to Mississippi.
So, while I have my $10 savings on my taxes this year (I’ll buy a couple of more half gallons of milk with that), Phil, Tate and Mr. Gunn want to keep cutting. But now they just want to keep hacking away at education — all of it.
This week, in presentations to legislators, Higher Education Commissioner Glenn Boyce and university presidents warned that Mississippi could fall further behind the nation economically if its universities can’t keep pace, as stated in an Associated Press story.
The fact of the matter is that the more the state of Mississippi cuts, universities are going to have to raise tuition to make up for the losses, which it has done many times in the past. That certainly affects me and my family, with three kids all planning to go to universities in Mississippi. My guess would be that whatever tax break Phil, Tate and Mr. Gunn gave me last year will not outweigh the tuition hike at our universities.
I don’t really think our legislators think things through very often.
How is any of this good for business? How is it good for business that our eight public universities are really no longer state supported, only state assisted?
How is it good for business that we have a legislature and governor that sees fit to skimp on education in any form?
“I hear y’all ringing an alarm bell and I want you to know I hear that,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, a Meridian Republican. He and House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Read, a Gautier Republican, both said they hope revenue, which has sagged because of a slow economy and GOP-backed tax cuts, will continue improvements it has shown this year.
“I know times have been tough,” Read told community college presidents. “When the money is there, we’ve always been there to help you.”
What a load of bull.
Mississippi business needs better universities and more prolific universities, yet many Republicans are continuing to ask whether efficiencies have gone far enough, especially at the university level.
Any legislator who would ask that question is woefully uninformed and ignorant of the daily routines at our universities.
I grew up in a household where my father was the Dean of Students at one of our fine public universities. I can remember walking the campus with my dad during holidays, breaks, nights and weekends across decades as he checked the air conditioning and heating levels of every building on campus. He was all too aware of the money being spent and how he had to be a good steward of it. And other administrators at every school are having to pinch every penny in the same way. It has been that way for the last 50 years.
It is important that state leadership understand that funding for higher education is an investment, not merely a budgeted expense item. The products and rewards of enhanced higher educational opportunities in Mississippi pay huge dividends that benefit the entire state.
To suggest anything else would be intellectually dishonest, which is really the definition of our legislature when it comes to education.
And that is bad business.
» ROSS REILY is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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