Budget writer trying to scare voters

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, July 8, 2015

One of the state’s top budget writers on Tuesday did his best to scare state agencies and the voting public.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, is telling leaders of most state agencies to plan how they would cut spending in case voters approve a school funding initiative in November, according to The Associated Press.

Frierson said he thinks at least $200 million would have to be moved from other programs into education if voters in November approve either of the two school funding proposals that will be on the ballot.

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The citizen-sponsored Initiative 42 would require lawmakers to fulfill a school funding formula that has been ignored most years since it was put into law in 1997. The proposed constitutional amendment says the state must fund “an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.”

Legislators put Initiative 42-A on the ballot as an alternative — and critics said it’s simply a way to confuse voters because it’s similarly worded. It would require funding of “effective” public schools.

Frierson opposes both measures and believes budget cuts would be required if either is approved.

Patsy Brumfield is spokeswoman for 42 For Better Schools, a group pushing the citizen-led initiative. She said Frierson is using scare tactics because the proposal would not require immediate full funding of schools.

She said additional money could be phased in over a few years, as the economy expands and tax collections increase.

Sondra Odom of Pearl, vice president of the Mississippi Association of School Boards, also criticized the budget chairman’s actions.

“Mr. Frierson’s threats are no different than a father falsely telling his child: ‘I’ll buy you all the books you can read, but if I do, you will have no clothes to wear and no bike to ride,’” Odom said in a news release.
Both Brumfield and Odom are right. Frierson is only looking to scare state agencies and erode support for Initiative 42. That’s not what his district elected him to do.