Saturday, January 30, 2016

Jay Hughes is telegenic, well-spoken, and wrong on almost every issue

Elections have consequences, as they say, and the voters of my district have chosen to elect perhaps the most liberal Democratic member in the state to the legislature. Jay Hughes worked hard to get elected while Brad Mayo ran a lackluster campaign, and from the standpoint of hard work he deserves the job.

Hughes is telegenic and well-spoken, and I believe if he can temper his ultra-liberalism a bit he may become the frontman for the state’s few remaining Democrats. But that doesn’t mean he’s not dead wrong on virtually everything that comes out of his mouth.

Hughes recently posted a Youtube video, which he described as his response to Gov. Phil Bryant’s State of the State Address. Since the entire video is a criticism of Republican policies, I’m going to take the opportunity to respond to Hughes’ issues point by point (I actually agreed on him on one issue!). I’ve posted the video above; by all means view it and make your own judgements

Issue 1: Gov. Bryant has properly used the rainy day fund

Hughes takes issue with Gov. Bryant’s decision to tap into the “rainy day fund” to cover a shortfall in state revenue, since Bryant didn’t want to drain the fund completely dry to fund Initiative 42 or other Democratic spending proposals. Bryant used this fund exactly as it was meant to be used; revenue came up short, and thanks to this fund the state was able to deal with the problem. Perhaps Republicans were foolish in making overly optimistic projections, but they did not budget in advance for this fund to be spent. The Democrats have been chomping at the bit to spend every dime of this money as a general revenue fund. I assume if they have their way and the state comes up short we will just have to file for bankruptcy. This is not responsible government. Thank you Gov. Bryant for using the Rainy Day Fund exactly as it was intended to be used and not allowing it to be plundered by the Democrats.

Issue 2: Thanks to Republicans, there are lots of new jobs in our district

Asks Hughes: “Any new jobs around you?” Where have you been Jay Hughes? Thanks to various incentives, Winchester just opened a huge plant in Oxford, employing 1,000 people. Job growth in our district is robust. “Help Wanted” signs are all over town. Yes, there are new jobs around me!

Issue 3: Our state's franchise tax is among the nation's highest

Mississippi has one of the highest corporate franchise taxes in the nation. It’s is something that can keep businesses at bay. Believe it or not, corporations look at these things before deciding where to locate their businesses. Right now might or might not be a good time to eliminate this tax, but our goal, as a state, should always to be to have corporate taxes that are lower than any other state in the union. Quit trying to drive away jobs, Jay! Here’s a link that shows how high the Mississippi Franchise tax is in relation to other states. Of course, those states not listed on the attached link don't even have a franchise tax!

It should be noted that while some Republican legislators are pushing for a repeal of the franchise tax, Gov. Bryant apparently is not, at least for now. Bryant is pushing for a tax cut for people making under $52,000 a year; hardly the corporate fat-cats described in Hughes' video.

Issue 4: Corporate tax breaks are bringing new jobs and businesses to our state

All of this crap about corporate tax cuts being tax cuts for “their buddies” is just ridiculous. I dare say few state Republicans hang out with the top brass of Nissan, Toyota, Post, Volvo, etc. No tax breaks are provided to any of these people because they are “buddies.” They are provided because they benefit the people of Mississippi by bringing and keeping jobs in our state.

For example, in 2002 Mississippi enacted a Freeport Warehouse rule that exempted warehouses which shipped their goods out of state from the personal property inventory tax. This move was not without opposition, and I’m sure Hughes would have been opposed to this “tax break” if he had been in the legislature at that time. Since 2002 Warehouses have sprung up like mad in DeSoto and Marshall County, and the two counties have gone from having almost no warehouses to having more than 50 million square feet, with more coming almost monthly. Businessmen are actually building spec 500,000 sq. ft. warehouses. Volvo recently closed all four of their warehouses around the country and moved and consolidated them in Marshall County. Post Cereal has done the same. These are the types of “cronies” that Hughes wants to keep out of our state.

Well-tailored tax breaks for corporations don’t hurt Mississippians; they help them. We all know that Nissan, Toyota, and Winchester got tax breaks or incentives, and I’m glad they did. Hughes clearly doesn’t want any of this. I guess he wants us all to go back to an era of sharecropping. Well, just no!

Issue 5: Hughes is right, the Democrat should have been seated in District 79

Unless there is something I don’t know, Jay Hughes is absolutely right about House District 79. It seems to me that the Democrat was certified the winner in this race and should have been seated. If the Republican wanted to cite irregularities the proper venue is a circuit court, not through legislative shennanigans. See, everyone can find common ground!

Issue 6: As a practical matter we have no inflation; education funding increases are real

Hughes says record education funding doesn't matter due to inflation. This is just a crock! For the last four years the inflation rate has remained under two percent and for the past two has been under one percent. The inflation rate is negligible. Republicans have made real increases in education funding.

Issue 7: When properly used, testing is a vital part of the educational process

Hughes says time spent on testing is depriving our children of an education. Tests can certainly be misused and results unfairly used, but frequent testing is an absolute necessity if children are to be educated. Benchmark testing can tell teachers exactly who gets it and who doesn’t, so that children who need help can be identified. Children should be tested on a very regular basis, and every child should receive at least one nationally normed test per year. Testing is wonderful! I suspect Hughes is upset that test results don’t always come out the way ultra-liberal Democrats want them to, but that is no reason to deprive every child of a decent education. Make no mistake, those who attack educational testing are in reality attacking education accountability. Studies show that testing in general reinforces and solidifies learning. Leave our tests alone!

Issue 8: Transfering school taxing and spending to the local level is not a bad thing, particularly for Oxford

Hughes says state educational budget cuts may necessitate the raising of local taxes. Well, hallelujah! Anytime we can move taxation from the state to the local level, it’s a good thing. If the state were to cut taxes and quit funding education completely, forcing our local school districts to fund themselves entirely, most citizens would be far better off. The money the state spends is not produced by magic; it comes from taxing our local citizenry. The state funding formula is a complete rip-off for Oxford, and citizens could easily pay the added property taxes out of their savings from a state income tax cut. The lion’s share of local property taxes are paid by commercial businesses, industries, students through their apartment rent, and alumni with pied-à-terres, so shifting the tax burden would greatly benefit Hughes’ constituents at the expense of those rich fat-cats he hates so much.

Issue 9: If special needs vouchers help a single student, they are worthwhile

Hughes declares the special needs voucher program an “abject failure” because only 250 were approved and only 107 of these were actually accepted into private schools, which he accused of “cherry picking.” How if this a failure? One hundred seven students were able to get a better educational placement. Hughes wants to subject them to a life of slavery. If only one special needs student was helped the program is worthwhile. Why is it wrong to help people?

Issue 10: Americans and Mississippians deserve a say in how they receive their government-funded or subsidized education

I’m not gong to argue about school choice at length, save to say that there ought to be a way to allow citizens school choice while still protecting local school districts. Surely there has to be a way for everyone to come out a winner on this issue! Perhaps a student who opts out of a local school district should get a voucher for 60 or 70 percent of the funding that would be spent on him while the remainder would remain in his assigned district. And by the way, the government DOES give people a choice of where to spend tax dollars, whether it be through food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, or a host of other programs. The idea that students should be forced to attend a school not of their choosing is, quite plainly, un-American.

Issue 11: Hughes fails to recognize that Mississippi has some of the best schools in the nation

Hughes says that tax breaks don’t attract businesses, good schools do. Actually both play a role. But Hughes fails to recognize that Mississippi already has some of the best schools in the nation, one of which is in the very district he represents.

Oxford High School students annually post extraordinarily high ACT scores, with 12 to 14 percent of each class scoring 30 or higher, compared to a national average of about five to six percent. In 2013 and 2014 eight Oxford students, or about 3.5 percent of the class, scored a 35 or 36 on the ACT. The national average? About half of one percent. Oxford offers four foreign languages and a host of AP classes.

Of course, there’s more to life than academics. The Oxford school orchestra has made great strides in the past few years. I was really impressed at their last concert. You can view a couple of their numbers by clicking here (or here). A couple of years ago I was stunned by the beauty of a performance of “Mary Did You Know,” which was arranged and sung by several chorus members. My friend Ed Meek was kind enough to send someone to video them the next day. And while the Oxford football team lost the state championship for the third time in a row this year, it’s quite a feat to have made it to state three years in a row.

Oxford isn't alone; there are outstanding schools throughout the state. DeSoto County and Madison Central come immediately to mind. Mississippi already has what relocating companies need as far as schools are concerned. We just don’t need to chase them away by enacting a bunch of punitive taxes. And we need for Jay Hughes to stop po’-mouthing us and start telling the world that “We’re the best!”

There, I’ve had my say. I’m sure Jay Hughes is a nice guy; clearly a lot of local residents like him. I don’t see the world as a zero-sum game as he does. But if it is a zero-sum game, the policies he is supporting will, after all is said and done, drain money from the Oxford community and deposit it elsewhere in the state. He ought to look after us instead.

If he really cares about our local community, he will start working to repeal MAEP and replace it with a per-student formula which treats every student and every school district exactly the same. This will dramatically increase funding for our local schools, which obviously will benefit the constituents that Hughes was elected to serve.

In short, I’m asking Hughes not to support the various liberal boondoggles of his friends and left-wing cronies on the backs of the hard-working citizens of Oxford and Lafayette County. Put us first!

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