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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: 503322

Reported Deaths: 10057
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34400541
DeSoto32318411
Hinds32074631
Jackson24551386
Rankin22103391
Lee15657235
Madison14662281
Jones13894243
Forrest13506253
Lauderdale12037318
Lowndes11091192
Lamar10531138
Pearl River9557238
Lafayette8581140
Hancock7751130
Washington7458161
Oktibbeha7152133
Monroe6796178
Warren6752176
Pontotoc6736104
Neshoba6656206
Panola6572131
Marshall6494135
Bolivar6331150
Union607794
Pike5849154
Alcorn5691102
Lincoln5468135
George502979
Scott474198
Tippah472481
Prentiss471582
Leflore4676144
Itawamba4651105
Tate4632111
Adams4617120
Copiah450092
Simpson4458116
Yazoo445388
Wayne440772
Covington429894
Sunflower4246105
Marion4236108
Coahoma4178108
Leake409888
Newton383179
Grenada3731108
Tishomingo361592
Stone360664
Jasper336565
Attala335290
Winston315391
Clay309077
Chickasaw302367
Clarke295894
Calhoun279947
Holmes268788
Smith266550
Yalobusha237247
Tallahatchie228752
Greene220649
Walthall219364
Lawrence213640
Perry206456
Amite206056
Webster203446
Noxubee186940
Montgomery179757
Jefferson Davis172243
Carroll169639
Tunica160139
Benton149439
Kemper142141
Choctaw134627
Claiborne132838
Humphreys129738
Franklin120728
Quitman106828
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson95934
Sharkey64220
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 821255

Reported Deaths: 15424
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1149051930
Mobile726651340
Madison52400699
Shelby37685350
Baldwin37285552
Tuscaloosa35147613
Montgomery34130740
Lee23556246
Calhoun22255490
Morgan21037378
Etowah19844500
Marshall18390304
Houston17406412
St. Clair16091339
Cullman15493293
Limestone15402199
Elmore15292286
Lauderdale14366295
Talladega13870283
DeKalb12670261
Walker11255370
Blount10227176
Autauga10061148
Jackson9909185
Coffee9215191
Dale8912186
Colbert8907201
Tallapoosa7103198
Escambia6782134
Covington6724183
Chilton6658162
Russell637659
Franklin5992105
Chambers5615142
Marion5016127
Dallas5013202
Pike4799106
Clarke477284
Geneva4577127
Winston4538103
Lawrence4352117
Bibb425686
Barbour358376
Marengo338390
Monroe332064
Randolph330264
Butler328596
Pickens317384
Henry313166
Hale311988
Cherokee303260
Fayette294580
Washington251651
Cleburne247960
Clay245568
Crenshaw245475
Macon235563
Lamar225747
Conecuh186654
Coosa180940
Lowndes175764
Wilcox169139
Bullock151844
Perry139240
Sumter133338
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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