Governor Tate Reeves has announced that his budget priorities for fiscal year 2024 include fighting crime, lowering the cost of medical care, preparing workers for more competitive economy, and eliminating the state income tax.
As is often the case with politicians, the proposals were sugar-coated. The devil is in the details and implementation. Starting with the job preparation idea, analyses are important and in order. Several underlying realities come to mind. (1) Job preparation, without sufficient attention to open-mindedness, critical thinking skills, and an understanding that there will need to be transitions throughout one’s productive years will leave many frustrated and ill-prepared for the future job market. (2) Care must be taken that sufficient funds will be forthcoming and that the plans are integrated into the public school curriculum. (3) Job preparation must focus on high paying, high demand, futuristic jobs.
It is not at all apparent that Reeves’ plan covers those bases. The legislature needs to assure that the citizens are not sold a bad bill of goods.
The matter of fighting crime is not a matter of simply providing more funds for the Capitol Police. In order to be effective, it must include: (1) a definite, systematic program of hiring more officers who understand and can relate to the communities they patrol; (2) thorough screening and training to assure that only officers who are racially and culturally sensitive are hired; (3) reforming police conduct, methods, and procedures; (4) the paying of attractive salaries that are commensurate with the importance of the job and the professionalism expected of officers; and (5) effectively addressing both gun possession and the regulation of militia groups.
The Reeves document focuses primarily, if not exclusively on, more funds for policing high crime areas. The legislature is obligated to bring balance to the matter of crime reduction, such as is noted herein.
When it comes to lowering the cost of medical care, one gets the impression that Reeves is being hypocritical, to put it mildly. Not only was he among the early critics of the Affordable Care Act, calling it Obama Care, he has continued to oppose Medicaid expansion. Approving that would immediately reduce the cost of healthcare for hundreds of thousands in the state. It would also help local, especially rural, hospitals to continue providing services which, without the expansion, results in many patients having to travel to more expensive facilities or to go without adequate care.
Those legislators who understand this problem should dramatize it for the benefit of the press and the public.
Finally, there is the matter of eliminating the state income tax. This would be no bonanza for taxpayers. It is easy to realize that if the state income tax was eliminated, citizens will find that the services to which they are entitled and have come to expect will no longer be affordable for the government to provide. This includes education, police and fire protection, libraries and museums, water and sewage, and much more than is supplemented by the government. To put it another way, there is no way that a citizen can save enough on income taxes to individually pay for the services that he/she expects and needs. Secondly, if there was no longer a state income tax, other fees and taxes would increase. These include sales taxes, property taxes, and fees for driver’s licenses, automobile tags, and titles. Such fees and taxes are more regressive, meaning that they would fall more heavily on average and lower-income households. Finally, eliminating the state income tax would release the wealthy and large corporations from having to pay their fair share of what it takes to operate a modern society; their share would then fall more heavily on the rest of society.
Many legislators understand these facts and have been struggling to defeat the idea of eliminating the state income tax. They need help in publicizing and defeating the idea.
Governor Tate Reeves has proposed his ideas, it is up to the legislature to determine their fate.