Mississippi’s Lieutenant Governor anticipates that in next year’s session, state legislators will be able to appropriate the largest allocation to community colleges in Mississippi history.
Tate Reeves told the Columbus Exchange Club on Thursday that such a claim was possible to back up because of tough financial decisions that have been made by state leaders since he and Gov. Phil Bryant took office in 2012.
An example: When they arrived, the state was spending $460 million of one-time money on recurring expenses, Reeves said. Over the last three years, legislators have brought that amount down to zero, partly by paying off $750 million in debt and only issuing $430 million in new bonds to reduce the state’s debt burden over time, Reeves said.
Because K-12 education and community colleges are the main drivers of workforce development, it’s important to make cuts in other areas of government and divert more funding to education, he said, because it helps improve workforce quality.
“There’s no doubt that our friends here at East Mississippi do a fantastic job of preparing the workforce,” Reeves said. “We’ve got to continue to replicate what we’re doing here in other parts of the state. The success that has been found here has nothing to do with anybody in Jackson. Success that has been found in attracting businesses can be attributed to those of you at the local level. It’s because the county, the city and the private sector work together.”
Reeves added that it’s also because the community college works with the county and area to ensure that if a business locates here, that business can and will have an adequate workforce.
“We’re fortunate now because we’re (several) years into this, and we actually have proof,” he said. “We don’t have to sell it. It sells itself.”
While Reeves did not mention the project by name, state funding secured by EMCC will be poured into a new workforce training facility that has been labeled Communiversity.
He added that the state has worked to cut taxes, namely the state’s inventory tax. None of the states surrounding Mississippi had such a tax, making the state less competitive in luring business, he said.
“Our number one priority must be job creation, creating better and higher paying jobs to our state,” Reeves said. “We have a political philosophy that government does not create jobs. Government’s role is to create an environment which encourages the private sector to invest capital and create jobs. Businesses view taxes as nothing more than a cost of doing business, and we want our cost of doing business to be as competitive in Mississippi as it is anywhere else.”
Re-distribution of resources also means an extra $250 million this year on K-12 education than three years ago, Reeves added.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.