Budget cuts threaten future agriculture

Published 9:49 am Thursday, April 27, 2017

By Joel McNeece

Rural Mississippi is in trouble and the purveyors of these dangerous times are the current state leadership. That was the message Sen. Russell Jolly delivered at the quarterly Soil and Water Conservation District meeting in Calhoun City Monday night.

Jolly expressed his concerns about the future of agriculture and how we’re supposed to feed a world population expected to reach 10 billion in the next 30 years when farmers seem to be in the government’s crosshairs.

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“Agriculture got cut 12%, all the universities 9%, soil and water, Extension Service, everything is getting cut that impacts the rural districts, and they (state leaders) act like they’re proud of it,” Jolly said of the state budget dilemma.

“We don’t have people representing rural people. Out of 52 members in the Senate, there are only seven that have a vested interest in agriculture and only two of us are farmers,” he said.

Jolly explained the cuts are coming because of the budget woes, but those responsible for the failing budget are the same ones busy patting themselves on the back for all the tax cuts that have caused most of it.

Jolly provided charts highlighting how ad valorem taxes in this area have doubled over the past decade.

“That’s not school taxes, that’s just ad valorem taxes,” he pointed out. “We’ve given all these big corporations big tax cuts. They’re not paying anything. We’ve had 41 tax cuts since 2012, and that’s put us in trouble. They can’t figure out what to do. It takes so much money to run the government, build and repair roads and bridges, keep your schools going and Medicaid.”

Jolly referenced Gov. Phil Bryant’s multiple budget cuts this fiscal year in excess of $480 million.

“He had to do all that and the biggest tax cut hasn’t even kicked in yet. That’s coming next year,” Jolly said.

“Out of the top 150 corporations in Mississippi, 111 of them don’t pay corporate taxes. Just like Walmart, all their tax money goes back to Arkansas. We don’t get a dime out of them.”

The biggest tax burden is yet to come and that’s in the form of education, Jolly said. The state leadership’s “secret” bill to revamp the MAEP formula essentially will shift 20% of the funding off the state and put it on the local district. That way state leaders can claim they fully funded by the formula but your local supervisors aren’t holding up their end.

Jolly explained that rural counties like Calhoun don’t have the tax base to generate that kind of funding.

“They’re going to make supervisors raise taxes to whatever it takes to fund the schools, and it will kill the rural counties,” he said.

Sen. Jolly explained how all the state leaders live within a 10 mile radius of each other and it’s easy to see where all the money goes. If we’re going to have a voice in rural Mississippi, we need to elect state leaders from our area. Hopefully, we’ll have that opportunity in 2019.

Joel McNeece is the publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.