Analysis: Reeves’ praise of state’s financial and fiscal health will be a campaign mantra

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for AmericaMississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves speaks during a special session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Jackson Thursday, August 23, 2018.
In the midst of presenting the budget proposal of the legislative leadership last month, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves boldly proclaimed that “Mississippi is in our best financial and fiscal shape in our history today.”
Reeves, the former state treasurer with a background in finance in the private sector before entering the political fray 15 years ago, prides himself on his understanding of the state’s budget and state finances.
His statement did not go unnoticed and will likely surface again as Reeves pursues the governor’s office in 2019. It is expected that the Republican will spend a significant amount of time on the campaign trail touting the state’s finances and fiscal condition.
A matter of fact, he already is.
It is difficult to objectively determine when the state was in its “best financial and fiscal shape.” And how does the state’s fiscal condition measure against significant budget cuts in recent years of more than 10 percent for many agencies?
That issue most likely will be fully debated between the party front-runners for governor – Reeves and Attorney General Jim Hood on the Democratic side.
In recent years state employees have been laid off, programs have been cut and schools from the kindergarten to university level have been underfunded or have seen funding cuts. For instance, the state has underfunded local school districts $2.3 billion since 2009. During the 2015 session, universities were funded at $748.3 million compared to $670.1 million in 2018 and community colleges received $258.2 million in the 2015 session compared to $237.2 million in 2018.
In addition, infrastructure needs were neglected for years until just being addressed in recent months, but with less money than many experts say