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: 307836

Reported Deaths: 7119
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20784248
Hinds19894408
Harrison17493302
Rankin13316275
Jackson13099243
Madison9896210
Lee9859169
Jones8293160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7189237
Lowndes6265144
Lamar610784
Lafayette6028117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4770129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4420139
Warren4281118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403775
Neshoba3988176
Lincoln3871108
Hancock372185
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322781
Pike3181104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296876
Copiah293065
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284868
Prentiss275659
Marion265979
Wayne261341
Leake261173
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245982
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213373
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158634
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126323
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120141
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81923
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 519071

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754131487
Mobile37774798
Madison33868494
Tuscaloosa25283443
Montgomery23969565
Shelby23112238
Baldwin20638300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14286311
Morgan14140268
Etowah13664345
Marshall11957219
Houston10383278
Elmore9994200
Limestone9814147
Cullman9475188
St. Clair9429234
Lauderdale9218227
DeKalb8747181
Talladega8060171
Walker7092275
Jackson6755110
Autauga6727103
Blount6488135
Colbert6205130
Coffee5401112
Dale4768110
Russell428938
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia388074
Dallas3527149
Chambers3500122
Clarke346360
Marion3066100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256458
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224955
Hale218775
Butler212366
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171540
Washington164038
Macon154848
Clay149454
Crenshaw149357
Cleburne146041
Lamar139334
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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