OPINION: Legislative session enters final days

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Sen. David Blount

By Senator David Blount

Jackson Advocate Guest Writer

The 2024 legislative session is scheduled to end on May 5. As I write there are still many issues left to resolve. Here is a quick update on a few important topics being considered.

The essential task of each session is to finalize a budget for the upcoming budget year. The overall state budget is about $25 billion. This includes federal funds (such as Medicaid and highways) and special funds from dedicated sources. The general fund is about $6 billion.

The largest part of the budget is public education (K-12, community colleges, and public universities). To date, Senate and House leaders have not been able to agree on a plan to fund K-12 public schools. The House of Representatives wants to scrap the existing Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) which allocates money to school districts. The Senate wants to revise MAEP. I support MAEP. Regardless of what plan is passed I will be working for increased funding for our schools, especially those with more low-income students. I will oppose proposals passed by the House that send public money to private schools. I am also working on my legislation to help teachers pay back their college loans.

Republican leaders are still pushing to make changes to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). The House has passed a bad bill to change the board to political appointments and not pay the amount required to fund the system in the budget next year. The Senate bill also removes any requirement to provide necessary funds to the system. These are bad ideas and I oppose them. We need to protect our retirement system for all current retirees and current employees, including an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA). We must meet our current obligations instead of passing massive tax cuts. 

Medicaid expansion – The House has passed a bill to expand Medicaid and provide health insurance to low-income people who cannot afford it. This is a good bill and I support it. It helps our hospitals and health care providers draw down an additional $1 billion a year in federal funds. The Senate plan does not insure as many people and does not draw down the maximum federal dollars available. It is past time for Mississippi to join 40 other states and expand Medicaid.

I welcome your thoughts on any matters that come before the Legislature. The best way to reach me is by using the email or phone below. Thank you again for the opportunity to serve the people of Hinds County. If I can help you or your family, please contact me by email (dblount@senate.ms.gov) or by calling my office at the Capitol (601-359-2220). I am also on Facebook and Twitter (@sendavidblount).

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OPINION: Legislative session enters final days

By Jackson Advocate News Service
April 29, 2024