Analysis: Politics infuse Mississippi governor's budget plan

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is using his state budget proposal to appeal to a conservative voting base.

Posted: Nov 21, 2020 4:59 PM
Updated: Nov 21, 2020 5:13 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is using his state budget proposal to appeal to a conservative voting base. He's proposing a new $3 million “Patriotic Education Fund” because he says young people are being filled with ideas that undermine the belief in American greatness.

The Republican governor released his recommendations last week for a $6 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“Across the country, young children have suffered from indoctrination in far-left socialist teachings that emphasize America’s shortcomings over the exceptional achievements of this country," the Reeves budget document says. “Revisionist history has aimed to tear down American institutions, and it is poisoning a generation.”

Reeves has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump. On Nov. 2, the Republican president created created a “1776 Commission” to promote Trump's vision of patriotic education. Trump had criticized The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which examined the long-term consequences of slavery in the United States.

Reeves unveiled his budget Nov. 16 on a Facebook live session. He said young people need to be taught “the good and the bad” about “what makes America the greatest place on earth, what makes America — these United States of America — the greatest country in the history of mankind.”

Reeves did not offer specifics about what would be taught as patriotic. For example, could it include lessons about people who challenged Mississippi’s deeply segregated society in the 1960s? Were they patriotic? Mississippi's governor at the time, Democrat Ross Barnett, did not think so.

“We must not and we cannot allow the liberals, the left-wing elements of this nation, which are present in both major political parties (to) infiltrate our ranks through our schools and other media and brainwash our youth," Barnett said in 1962.

A clip of Barnett can be seen at about the 9-minute mark in “The Toughest Job,” a movie about Democrat William Winter, who was elected Mississippi governor in 1979.

History professor Robert Luckett told The Associated Press on Thursday that Reeves, in proposing a “Patriotic Education Fund” is using “dog whistle” phrases to appeal to conservatives by raising the specter of socialism spreading in the U.S.

“Frankly, it strikes me as just kind of a political ploy and a political statement in the current climate we’re in, especially in these waning days of the Trump administration,” said Luckett, director of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University.

Luckett said "there’s something very anti-intellectual about and something dangerous” about the idea that historians should stop evaluating information.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that the proposed “Patriotic Education Fund” will survive.

Governors can make spending suggestions, but budget-writing is a legislative responsibility. Mississippi legislators have a long tradition of ignoring governors’ ideas. Reeves knows this because he did it during eight years as lieutenant governor, when he presided over the Senate and alternated years, with the House speaker, as chairman of the 14-member Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

On Dec. 7, the Budget Committee will release its own set of spending recommendations for the year that begins July 1. More budget discussions will happen after the legislative session starts in January. All 122 members of the House and all 52 members of the Senate are supposed to vote on final spending plans by early April.

In Reeves' budget proposal, he largely ignores his own 2019 campaign promise to increase teacher pay all four years during this term as governor. He recommends bonuses for teachers in high-performing schools or in schools that improve in academic ratings.

He also proposes reducing spending for schools that don’t offer in-person instruction during the coronavirus pandemic. The next budget year is months away, but Reeves made his recommendations as Mississippi and other states are seeing a surge in new virus cases.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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