It’s time to admit it, Mississippi. On “42” budget cuts, we got fooled.

Looking back on one of the murkiest ballot fights in Mississippi history, the aftermath is starting to provide us some clarity.

Now that the Joint Legislative Budget Committee is putting out its plans for our economic future, that rhetorical ramp-up to Election Day was a fun little adventure, wasn’t it?

The anti-public ed politicians and their lobbyist profiteers pulled one over on us. Well- not all of us. But just enough of us to matter. In the end, voters preferred Initiative 42 over 42A, but 27,000 more people voted not to change the state constitution.

The Anti’s warned of a doomsday scenario if Mississippi fully funded its schools through Initiative 42. It would lead to budget cuts in many of the state agencies, they said. A vote against 42 was supposedly a vote to save jobs, important services, and save programs from possible insolvency.  And enough of us believed them to defeat the Big Bad Budget Bogeyman.

phantom scooby doo unmask 1To be sure, not every voter opted against 42 for that reason. But just how many did? Bryant, Reeves, and the Anti-42 machine went city to city, department to department warning people jobs would be lost if 42 passed. In reality, the Initiative 42 Budget Cuts Bugaboo was nothing more than a scary mask the old men in Jackson threw on to hide their own plans to slash programs. But just how many “No” votes came from that fear machine? How many Mississippians voted to protect their jobs and services, but if they’d known they’d lose them anyway, would have supported public education via 42?

I would believe you if you told me half of the No’s were from fears of budget cuts. But that’s way too high. Let’s say 20%. Too high still? What about 10? Five? Surely one in 20 voters against 42 decided based on budgetary fears.

What if 42 only needed 1 in 100? Certainly at least 1% of No voters were worried about budget cuts

If just 1% of the people who voted against 42 would have changed their minds knowing the budget cuts were coming anyway, Initiative 42 would have passed.

But here we sit. We opted for budgetary solvency over investment in education.

And now we have neither. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee has proposed to slash funds for schools, community colleges, universities, Medicaid, prisons, and mental health and human services. Apparently they don’t have enough money. And yet they have enough money to cut taxes. Right.

Let’s hope this austerity approach works better than it did in Kansas. I hear they’re hot on our heels in the race for last place. Hot on our… toes?

It’s ok, Mississippi. We can admit it to each other. Nobody else is listening.

When it comes to the scary threat of budget cuts from 42, we got fooled.

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