Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves held a press conference at the Capitol Monday morning to discuss his plans for the 2015 session, which include tax cuts, making changes to the Mississippi Adequate Education Formula and requiring transparency from public hospitals.
Photo by Trip Burns.
Talk around the Capitol suggests that because it is an election year, nothing substantial will get done. But it's clear that the state leadership has a different idea.
"I don't really think like that," Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday morning. "It's not about doing the easy stuff to get reelected. It's about doing the hard stuff that moves Mississippi forward."
Reeves held a press conference at the Capitol Monday morning to discuss his plans for the 2015 session, which include tax cuts, making changes to the Mississippi Adequate Education Formula and requiring transparency from public hospitals.
The lieutenant governor has big ideas for education. He is a proponent of school choice, and advocated for the special-needs educational savings account bill, which would allow special-needs children to attend private schools using public dollars.
While Republicans have long complained about the formula for education funding in the state, Reeves is finally proposing to change how the numbers are calculated.
Reeves said MAEP should use A- and B-rated schools to determine the base student cost—how much money every public-school student represents in a school district. MAEP currently uses C-rated schools as the model.
Reeves said C districts are not strong enough to base the formula on. Using A and B districts will help get more money back to the classroom because, Reeves said, A and B districts spend more money in the classroom and less on administration than C districts.
But public-school advocates worry that using A and B districts, which are generally more affluent and have fewer at-risk students, would take away the equity component of MAEP. Students who qualify for reduced lunch, studies show, need more funding to compete against students who come from wealthy families.
Reeves also said he agrees with the Mississippi Department of Education that quarterly enrollment—not average daily attendance—should be used to calculate the number of students in a school district.
Currently, the state calculates the number of students to fund by how many students are in attendance in a school district on average, not by how many students are enrolled. A student must be in school at least two-thirds of the day to be counted, a stipulation that concerns public-school advocates.
Reeves is also calling open meetings for public hospitals to increase transparency. He said he wants to create a team of mental-health professionals to create a better blueprint for delivery of care to some of Mississippi's most vulnerable citizens.
Because the state revenue for the first six months of the fiscal year is $100 million more than what was expected, Reeves said, the state can afford to "give taxpayers a pay raise." He said he favors tax codes that are simpler, flatter and more fair, and that his plan will promote economic growth.
He also said his tax plan will reach all Mississippians.
Reeves also mentioned that he would like to get rid of the vehicle inspection sticker—a $5 cost for drivers—and reassign inspection workers, which could increase the number of troopers by eight to 10 men.