Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rep. Johnny Stringer: Haley Barbour, build your presidential campaigns on the backs of someone other than Mississippi schoolchildren

House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Johnny Stringer

As we noted yesterday, Gov. Haley Barbour had been out of town politicking for president while budget negotiations were ongoing here in Mississippi. That prevented all sides from being able to get together until today at noon. That meeting apparently didn't go well, as Barbour won't budge on severe cuts to the already underfunded K-12 educational and mental health systems in Mississippi. Barbour wishes instead to cut funding for education to levels below current funding, and is demanding cuts in mental health funding even as the system is shutting down facilities under its current levels of funding.

House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Johnny Stringer (D - Montrose) adamantly opposed Barbour's demands, and linked them to Barbour's presidential aspirations:

“Cutting the education budget as Gov. Barbour has proposed is the equivalent of a tax increase – it will simply shift the tax burden to local school districts, many of which could be forced to increase property taxes on homes and vehicles just to survive day to day. That is unacceptable.”

“We also cannot afford to cut mental health funding next year, a move that would force the closing of all mental health crisis centers in Mississippi and leave several hundred state employees without a job. Many people who are currently in residential mental health facilities will either have to return home or be put out on the street.

“The state House has presented a complete state budget, one that is balanced, one that is conservative in revenue and one that provides sufficient funding for education and mental health. Now, Gov. Barbour wants us to cut education and mental health for no apparent reason. I don’t understand that.

“I recognize that the governor is running for president and has to appear anti-government in these national GOP primaries. But I don’t think Mississippi schoolchildren and people who need mental health services should bear the burden of his presidential politicking.”

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