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: 319704

Reported Deaths: 7369
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22276267
Hinds20677421
Harrison18407317
Rankin13880282
Jackson13689248
Madison10249224
Lee10056176
Jones8464167
Forrest7827153
Lauderdale7260242
Lowndes6509150
Lamar634888
Lafayette6310121
Washington5420137
Bolivar4837133
Panola4669110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4604147
Marshall4573105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425373
Union415777
Monroe4155135
Neshoba4061179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386687
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3369111
Alcorn325972
Scott320174
Yazoo314171
Adams307486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298189
Tippah291968
Prentiss283861
Leake271974
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George252051
Newton248663
Tishomingo231568
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187854
Stone187833
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127138
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69532
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
Calhoun14718325
Morgan14626285
Etowah14171363
Marshall12449230
Houston10764288
Elmore10295213
Limestone10182157
St. Clair10160251
Cullman9941201
Lauderdale9596249
DeKalb8967189
Talladega8458184
Walker7335280
Autauga7230113
Blount6944139
Jackson6922113
Colbert6414140
Coffee5627127
Dale4929114
Russell454941
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113430
Coosa111429
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93534
Choctaw62025
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