Representative Williamson releases statement on teacher pay increase, income tax bill
Published 3:31 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022
The Mississippi House approval of the House Bill 530, also known as the Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers (START) Act of 2022, has many saying Mississippi is moving in the right direction.
The bill would increase teacher pay, nudging ahead of senators who are working on a separate plan. The House bill would give raises of $4,000 to $6,000. The Senate proposes an average increase of $4,700 over two years.
According to the Associated Press, Mississippi has some of the lowest teacher salaries in the United States.
The average teacher salary in Mississippi during the 2019-20 academic year was $46,843, according to the Southern Regional Education Board. That lagged behind the average of $55,205 for teachers in the 16 states of the regional organization. The national average was $64,133.
The starting salary for a Mississippi teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $37,000 for the current school year, according to the state Department of Education. Teachers with advanced degrees and more experience are paid more.
The House voted 114-6 Wednesday to pass House Bill 530 with bipartisan support. State Representative Brady Williamson of Oxford was one of the few members to vote against the bill. Williamson notably voted “Yes” for the removal of the state income tax bill, which decreases the grocery tax and cuts the car tag tax by 50% while keeping the local budget whole.
In a press release, Williamson said he owes all the professions in Mississippi an explanation on his two votes.
” … my “No” vote, on the Increase in pay to employees in one State Department resulting in right at a $250 million per year cost to everyone in the entire State,” he said in his press statement. “This will be tied to 1/2 of 1% in crease in Sales Tax and/or slowing or preventing the elimination of income tax which directly impacts the pay of every profession in the State.”
“There are quite a few professions in the State many of which are well below the State average, some of the more widely known are Law Enforcement and First Responders, some making $27,000 per year,” Williamson continued. “There are many underpaid and vacant positions. For example, we only have 50% of the Corrections Officers needed to keep our Prisons safe.”
Williamson said although many would like to increase teachers’ pay, current teacher pay is 8.6% above the average earner in Mississippi and the bill will come at the expense of the rest of Mississippi taxpayers.
“So, Teachers, we want to give you a pay raise, but we have crafted this pay increase in a way that cost everyone an increase in Sales Tax,” he said. “A $250 Million per year increase in the Education Budget that is already well over half the State’s Budget, hinders or slows the ability to have an income tax elimination that adds money to every workers pocket in the state. This poor fiscal decision halts any and all significant long-term increases in pay to every other department in the State.
“Teachers, are you comfortable telling your neighbor that your pay is the only State pay that has automatic increases every year, you just got a $4,000-6,000 annual raise with no ties to performance, and a huge increase in retirement. Then remind them they have zero chance of receiving a similar deal and they are paying for yours. ”
William concluded the press statement with his current stance on both the START Act of 2022 and the income tax removal bill.
“In closing, an accurate statement is around 1% of the State is Public School Teachers, if the Teacher Bill passes as introduced we will have helped them at the expense of 99% of all others. I attempt to make decisions that are good for as many of us as possible without giving preference to a single group,” said Williamson. “Income tax elimination does that. The ‘Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers’ Bill does not.”
To see Representative Brady Williamson’s full statement, view the document below: