Mississippi Republican leadership really must assume the worst about their supporters. They will stop at very little to try to scare voters into allowing them to continue violating state law and underfunding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, even if it means using the sick poor of the state as a pawn in the game. Remarkably, they clearly assume that the majority of Mississippians care little about either ensuring that all children have books and walls without holes in them or about keeping poor Mississippians alive with access to health care. They will even say out loud that if they didn't have to keep paying for Medicaid—health care for the poor, including many elderly women—that they could have enough money to fund MAEP.
This arrogant, heart-wrenching game was in full, shocking display in last week's legislative budget-request hearings. The lieutenant governor himself led the offensive charge. "We would much rather invest in say, public education than in the Division of Medicaid, but we haven't had that luxury because the budget for the Division of Medicaid keeps growing substantially," Reeves told the committee and Dr. David Dzielak, executive director of the Division of Medicaid. And, no, Reeves didn't follow up that statement by citing research that shows that people who get a good education are less likely to end up on Medicaid. There wasn't a whole lot of forward thinking in evidence.
There hasn't been from the beginning from Republicans who callously do everything they can to keep from funding even "adequate" education—a law that was passed in the first place to help decrease the disparities between public schools in wealthier areas and those in poor ones.
This is only the next move in a game to scare voters into voting against Initiative 42 in November, or at least those they can't fool with a confusing ballot into voting for Initiative 42A (the first stunt). GOP lawmakers insist (falsely) that they would have to fully fund MAEP immediately if 42 passes, which they wouldn't have to do and that its proponents aren't requesting, instead offering a common-sense funding transition based on state revenues.
They then told state agencies to suggest how much would immediately have to be cut if 42 passes to help build hysteria. Initially, they left the Department of Education and Medicaid off that list, but Reeves and company upped the ante in the meetings last week by suggesting that they're on the chopping block should voters stupidly demand they follow the law and fund MAEP.
Obviously, public education and saving the lives of poor people must be large parts of the state's budgeting pie (and are more important than the iffy companies that easily wrangle corporate welfare out of these guys). The Mississippi GOP has gotten more brazen, and we get it: They really don't care about poor children and sick people in Mississippi.
But voters don't have to stand for it: It's time we let them know why they need to care by turning out in November to vote for MAEP and against legislators who play such disgusting games.
See more at jfp.ms/maep.