Mississippi has been the poorest state in America for as long as anyone can remember. While many southern states have flourished over the past 40 years, Mississippi has continued to underperform.
Georgia and Tennessee have generated so many jobs that many young Mississippians now call Atlanta or Nashville home. Florida and Texas today rival the old business clusters of New York, Chicago and California. Even Alabama has seen something of a surge. But not Mississippi. Why?
Mississippi has been held back by bad public policy. Those southern states that have prospered are relatively free; individuals there are able to build businesses, take risks and enjoy the rewards of their own hard work.
Too often in our state there are various vested interests and restrictions. Downtown Jackson is full of boards and commissions whose permission is needed for all sorts of economic activity.
Mississippi state taxes are too high. Our laws fail to allow the kind of innovation that has happened in Tennessee and Texas.
For decades, Mississippi has depended on federal handouts. Political leaders have defined success in terms of getting federal government grants. Instead we should be aiming to create the conditions that allow actual wealth creation.
Here are 12 key reforms that the Mississippi Center for Public Policy is driving for which would help elevate our state in 2022:
1. Open school enrollment: If Mississippi is to prosper, we need to address the elephant in the room – education underachievement. The only way to improve public schools in Mississippi is to give moms and dads more control. We believe that our state lawmakers need to pass a bill that allows families dissatisfied with what their local school board offered them the right to send their child – and their tax dollars – to a different school of their choice.
2. Cap school board administrative costs: Per pupil spending has risen in Mississippi, but teacher pay has not. That’s because too much of the education budget gets spent on fat cat bureaucrats’ salaries. A law is needed to cap administration costs and ensure money goes into the classroom instead.
3. Multiple charter school authorizers: We need multiple Charter School authorizers so that we have more than a handful of Charter Schools.
4. Combat Critical Race Theory: Rather than equipping young people with the skills they need to flourish, too often our education system introduces young people to extreme ideas that risk dividing America. We have published a bill to combat Critical Race Theory, which we have sent to every member of the legislature.
5. Academic transparency: One idea to combat Critical Race Theory is to require school boards to publish details of what they are actually teaching young Mississippians.
6. Free speech on campus (Forum Act): The best way to defeat bad ideas is to ensure that they are replaced by better ones. This is why we need to safeguard free speech on our college campuses.
7. State income tax abolition: Other southern states like Tennessee, Texas, and Florida do not have a state income tax—and are flourishing. We need to abolish the state income tax here, too. With a billion-dollar budget surplus, our state can afford it!
8. Red tape reduction: We are behind a one-in-one-out proposal would force officials to cut red tape.
9. Certificate of need repeal: Mississippi has some of the worst health outcomes in America because we have some of the most severe restrictions on expanding healthcare facilities. We believe that the free market should decide if there is a need for particular services, and our idea is to remove these ‘good-old-boy’ restrictions.
10. Repeal of Certificate of Need Moratorium on home health agencies: With more folks than ever seeking to get medical care from the comfort of their own homes, we support making it easier to offer medical access directly.
11. Reduce barriers to telemedicine/telepharmacy: In an age of unprecedented integration between digital technology and daily life, we believe that Mississippians should be allowed to access their healthcare systems and doctors using modern devices.
12. Agricultural “sandbox”: We would like to empower innovators and small businesses to bring new technology to market with reduced regulatory burdens that could allow for Mississippi to become the nation’s leader in this field.
There is nothing inevitable about Mississippi’s underperformance. Nothing in the Constitution that says we have to be 50th out of 50. If we give more freedom and control to Mississippi moms and dads, small business owners and workers, we will flourish.
Let’s make 2022 the year when we begin to make these changes for the better.