Jay Hughes favors state lottery for education

Published 10:57 am Friday, May 19, 2017

Jay Hughes doesn’t hold punches when it comes to state politics. Those who follow the Democrat state representative from Oxford on social media know exactly where he stands on issues he feels strongly about, especially when it comes to public education.

Hughes sat down this week with the Oxford EAGLE editorial board and fielded questions prior to the special session that Gov. Phil Bryant has called that will begin on June 5. Legislators ended their regular session at the end of March without finalizing budgets for the Attorney General and the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The governor is the only person who can call a special session and set the agenda.

Hughes would like to see more items taken up, including a state lottery, something he and Bryant actually agree upon could help the state financially. Bryant has indicated a state lottery could be used for much-needed public roads and bridges. However, House Speaker Philip Gunn is opposed to allowing a lottery to come up for a vote based upon his religious convictions.

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“It’s a potential $100 million animal,” Hughes said.

Hughes would like to see potential lottery funds used for education like surrounding states have done.

“I think there is a greater need for improving the quality of life of people with mental health issues, health issues and public education right now,” Hughes said. “That’s not to say that public state roads and bridges don’t have needs. But they’re nowhere near as significant as a severely developmentally disabled 4-year old who can’t get care or treatment.”

“Tennessee has a lottery that funded tuition for a hundred thousand students last year and this year, they’re going to have a free to the student community college access and workforce training,” Hughes said, adding that such a project would be a long-term investment into the future of Mississippi.

“I see education in that manner as an investment, not an expense. Because what you invest in those members of society getting a trade or a skill or employable makes them contributors to a community instead of takers,” Hughes said.

Hughes said a major reason why not much seems to get done in Jackson is the power struggle among the Republican state leaders, who can’t seem to agree on issues facing the state despite the fact they have a super majority in the legislature. A prime example is how to spend the millions of dollars the state received from the BP oil spill. Some in the GOP want the money to stay and be used along the Coast, while others believe it should go into the general fund and others think it should be divvied up into thirds for north, central and south Mississippi.

Hughes doesn’t expect the issue to come up in the special session.

“Quite frankly they just simply can’t agree on where it should go and I think that it has been such a devastating year for the super majority that we couldn’t even finish our basic job of preparing a budget that probably is prudent to avoid a prolonged conflict over where that money goes,” Hughes said.

He added that it is crucial the legislature fund MDOT and give them the $1.2 billion they need by June 30 because the federal government matches those funds.

“You’ve got a disagreement between members of the same party that’s potentially putting at risk Mississippians getting several billion dollars for basic road maintenance,” Hughes said. “That is an economic issue. It’s scary and quite frankly ridiculous.”