Legislators Play Money Games to Avoid Funding Schools

How do legislators turn recurring revenue into one-time money and avoid meeting their statutory obligation to fund public education?

Here’s how it works: legislators refuse to acknowledge the revenue that is right before their eyes, leaving it on the table until after the budgeting process is over. Then they sock it away in savings, call it a surplus, and leave it unappropriated until the next year, when it is labeled one-time money. That’s right, they deliberately choose to NOT appropriate tax dollars we have paid to the state to fund public services, bury those dollars out of sight, and then claim the money can’t be used for recurring expenses the next year because it’s morphed into one-time money.

Mississippi ended the 2013 fiscal year with a $295-million surplus, more than enough to have fully funded the MAEP in that year. Instead, it was placed in reserve accounts, saved for a “rainy day.” 

So what are these money games about, then? They’re about legislators wanting to stash money away in obscure savings accounts so that they can trumpet a surplus and pat themselves on the backs for good fiscal management, all the while keeping that extra money aside to hand it out like candy during election years. 

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