/Can Mississippi afford to raise teacher pay and eliminate the income tax

Can Mississippi afford to raise teacher pay and eliminate the income tax

Mississippi News for Nonprofits Note: This analysis was first published in Mississippi Today’s weekly legislative bulletin. Get weekly analysis access by signing up for our newsletter. Remember mid-January when all legislative leaders could do to sing the praises public school teachers while proposing historic pay increases? In January, both the Senate and House leaders received widespread praise from public education groups for their proposals that would not only provide short-term raises but also increase the teacher’s pay scale over the long term. However, legislators have concentrated their efforts on reducing or eliminating the state’s income tax. This generates billions of dollars that pays teachers salaries and other essential public services. Teachers in the state are struggling to separate the income tax cuts and teacher raises. “The refrain that lawmakers used to sing was that we couldn’t finance MAEP (the state’s public education funding formula), because we don’t possess the money. They are now pointing out all the extra money to justify lowering the income tax. “It’s not adding up,” stated Cagney Weaver (Biloxi Upper Elementary teacher), a national board-certified teacher. I believe there are good intentions to raise the salaries of teachers. We’ll watch what happens to those bills. However, they are not talking about how cutting the income taxes could cause a state budget to be slashed and prevent them from paying us down in the future. The deadline for lawmakers to act on the teacher pay increase bills is March 1, as the bickering between Senate and House leaders continues to escalate. Teachers are being closely monitored this week as educators worry about teacher pay getting caught up in the tax cut battle. Weaver stated that there is still a lot of work to be done before any meaningful action can be taken for teachers. “And what reason has lawmakers ever given us any reason to feel optimistic about any all of this?” READ MORE. The Mississippi Republican Income Tax Bet. One year ago, Senate and House leaders were fighting over a major tax reduction proposal. They were faced with the first deadline for addressing bills that originated in the other chamber. Many bills died without being voted on or debated due to the bickering. A pay increase for public school teachers was one of the bills that got caught up in the battle. Today’s public battle between Senate and House leaders over a major tax reduction proposal is underway. The first deadline for them to deal with bills from the other chamber is today. Capitol observers fear that many bills will be put on hold without any debate or vote because of the bickering. A pay increase for public school teachers is one of the bills that was caught up in the battle. The teacher raise would have been defeated if not for the last-minute save by Senate leaders last year. Speaker Philip Gunn was unhappy with the lack of Senate support for his tax cuts plan. READ MORE: Hosemann does not like Gunn’s tax proposal. Are we in danger of Capitol gridlock? Much of this session is the same as last year. Both chambers passed teacher pay raise bills again. However, this year’s proposals were much bigger and would alter the structure of pay. The Senate plan would increase teacher salaries by $210 million annually, while the House proposal would spend $219 million more annually on teacher salaries. If passed, either proposal would be one of the largest investments in public school teacher salaries in decades. Are those investments sustainable long-term, as legislators in both chambers debate cutting or eliminating the state’s second-largest source of revenue? Gunn is wasting great political energy, just like last year, to eliminate the income tax reduction, which could mean $1.5 billion less in annual revenue collected. Hosemann responded to Gunn by proposing a smaller income tax cut but still generating $317 million more annually in revenue. Hosemann claims Gunn’s plan for fiscal responsibility is long-term. Gunn believes Hosemann’s plan goes too far. As the hours go by, the squabbling between Senate and House leaders over their competing tax cuts proposals grows. READ MORE: 5 facts about the Great Mississippi Tax Cut Battle of 202022. Many Capitol observers fear that this fighting will lead to the death of many bills. Teachers are concerned about the teacher pay bill. However, it seems unlikely that teachers will lose their job this week. It is possible that lawmakers will kill one of two teacher pay proposals – a possibility that worries many teachers. Even if the Mississippi teacher pay increase survives this week, teachers in Mississippi will be anxious about the financial uncertainties posed by a possible tax cut. These thoughts and sentiments are all part of the long-standing feeling that legislators aren’t in their favor. “If Mississippi can’t afford to fully fund public school and pay teachers at the Southeastern standard, then we can’t afford an income tax cut. It’s as simple as that,” Nancy Loome, a public education advocacy group The Parent’s Campaign wrote last week. “… Teachers are being told by legislators that they cannot afford to raise teacher salaries to the Southeastern average. They also tell parents and children that they don’t have the money to pay the Building Fund. As the Capitol grandstanding heats, teachers will need to wait and see if they get the support that they’ve been waiting for for years. Weaver stated that every session is another disappointment in some way. “Our schools and districts do a great job with what they have, but it’s not sustainable. Jackson needs to do more for us. It’s that simple. If you have the cash to send a check, lawmakers could do the same for you instead of cutting taxes.