/Reeves questions how state can afford Hood’s proposals; Hood said setting priorities key

Reeves questions how state can afford Hood’s proposals; Hood said setting priorities key

Many wonder how he will pay for it. The Mississippi Center for Public Policy, which is a conservative advocacy group with limited government, declared that Jim Hood has a long and expensive list of K-12 education goals. Reeves stated on social media that Jim Hood could not defend his liberal agenda. We all know that Mississippi’s big government plan will bankrupt it. Hood, a four-term attorney general and Mississippi’s only statewide elected Democrat admits that his agenda may be bold but that it is necessary to move the state forward. Hood also acknowledges that it is not possible to do everything in one year. Hood stated that while we don’t expect to accomplish all of these things in one year, we are setting priorities and determining the direction the state should go. Hood was responding to questions from Mississippi Today. Hood proposed funding 100% of the Mississippi Adequate Education program, which provides most state funding to local school districts. According to the state Department of Education, full funding for the next fiscal year would require an additional $309million. Since 2003, the funding formula has only been fully funded twice. It has also been underfunded $2.5 billion cumulatively since 2008. This creates a hole that even full funding advocates admit would be hard to fill in a year. Most public school advocates would agree to a multi-year phase-in for full funding. Hood also proposed a new area of public education: Hood stated that he would provide tuition assistance for pre-K and community colleges “immediately” in the area of healthcare. Hood would like to expand Medicaid, which is federally allowed to provide coverage for the working poor. This expansion could cover as many as 300,000. Reeves claims that the state cannot afford to fund the program. The federal government covers 90 percent of the program’s costs. Based on multiple studies, the state could pay up to $150 million annually. Hood claims that the program, which is funded primarily by federal money, would result in a cost savings for the state Medicaid program over the long-term. It would also generate $100 million in revenue annually due to the economic boon federal funds would bring the state. Hood has also called for significant additional infrastructure spending, although he was not specific. Hood once spoke in favor of raising the 18.4-cent per gallon gasoline taxes in the state, which is one of the lowest in America, to help pay for increased road and bridge spending. However, Hood has stated that he will continue to explore all options since becoming a candidate to be governor. Hood has been accused by Reeves of reversing his position on the gasoline tax. Hood advocated spending money and reducing revenue. Hood also supported lowering the 7 percent state grocery tax, which is the highest food tax in the country. Hood stated that the tax reduction would be beneficial to all Mississippians but particularly the working poor, who have to pay a higher percentage of their income for the tax. According to the Mississippi Department of Revenue, the grocery tax generates state revenue of between $267 million-$315 million each year. Hood proposes to reduce it by half, from 7 percent to 3.5%. Hood has also promised that the state would reimburse municipalities for a portion of the grocery tax. Hood stated that there are funds available for Hood’s programs. Hood cites the fact the Legislature, headed by Reeves, and House Speaker Philip Gunn has reduced taxes by $765 millions over the past eight years. The tax cuts are called “giveaways for out of state corporations” by Reeves. While most of the tax cuts go to corporations, many of which are located out of state, many are also available to Mississippi residents. In the next few years, for example, a $150 million reduction in the personal income tax will be implemented. It is unclear whether Hood would be able to convince the Legislature, if at all, to repeal the corporate tax cuts. Hood has proposed over a billion dollars of new spending and has not identified a way to pay it except by raising taxes. Parker Briden, a spokesperson for Reeves, stated that there is no doubt that Hood’s tax and spending agenda aligns with the national Democrats he has chosen. Hood points out the $240 million that the state pays managed care companies who have contracts with Mississippi’s Medicaid program as an area in which savings can be made. Hood also pointed out other areas where there is waste, such as the $2.3 million contract that was paid to a company for posters to be placed in schools. Hood stated, “We have the money.” Hood stated, “It’s only what we do with it, and how we redirect them.” Hood added that he believes the programs Hood proposed are an investment in the future. “I don’t know what the Legislature will do. But what I do know is there is no change in education, health care, roads or bridges if Tate Reeves wins.” He hasn’t done any of it in eight years. “x000D_The votes are there in the Legislature. But they have been blocked from doing anything by Tate Reeves’s failed leadership.”