Legislative Update (3/15/19)
Friday, March 15, 2019
Posted by: Kelly Riley
The Mississippi House of Representatives amended SB 2770, the teacher pay raise bill, Monday afternoon. As passed the House, SB 2770 provides a $4,000 teacher pay raise over the next two years, rather than the $1,000 raise proposed by the Senate. The House tabled its motion to reconsider the bill Tuesday morning, so the bill is now headed back to the Senate. Unfortunately, as passed the House, SB 2770 contains a reverse repealer (i.e., the bill is repealed before it goes into effect), which means the bill must go to conference. A reverse repealer is a legislative maneuver used by legislators when they want to make sure a bill goes to conference for further consideration. A conference committee comprised of three representatives and three senators will negotiate a final version of the bill to be considered by both chambers.
Regardless of the reverse repealer, at this point in the process, the Senate is sticking to its position of a $1,000 raise. The Senate Appropriations Committee met Wednesday afternoon and adopted a strike all amendment for HB 1643, the K-12 appropriation bill. When Senator Sollie Norwood asked if the bill included funding for the House’s $4,000 pay raise, both Senator Gray Tollison, President Pro Tem of the Senate and Chairman of Senate Education, and Senator Buck Clarke, Chairman of Senate Appropriations, responded that the bill contained the Senate’s $500 for the first year of a $1,000 pay raise. (NOTE: After no further discussion regarding the pay raise, it was quite disheartening to sit and listen to a lengthy discussion later in the meeting regarding the deteriorating condition of our state parks and golf courses and what additional revenue could be found for them.)
The full Senate considered and passed the strike all amendment for HB 1643 yesterday. Senator David Blount asked Senator Tollison if the funding bill included funding for the $4,000 pay raise, to which Tollison responded that SB 2770 provides for the teacher pay raise, but the funding for such will be provided in HB 1643. In responding to additional questions from Senator Blount, Senator Tollison stated that the teacher pay could be funded by the state or by school districts. It is critical that the entire pay raise be funded by the state and that it not be an unfunded mandate for local districts. It is a matter of priorities for our legislative leaders. Do they want to continue doling out tax cuts or do they want to provide a competitive pay raise for Mississippi teachers?
The Senate’s proposed $1,000 pay raise is simply not adequate. Mississippi’s average teacher salary is nearly $6,500 less than the southeastern average. Arkansas recently passed a $4,000 pay raise that will be implemented over the next four years. Texas is considering a $5,000 raise over the next two years. Georgia is considering a $3,000-$5,000 pay raise. Louisiana Governor Edwards is pushing a $1,000 pay raise as the first of three years of increases. Absent significant action from the legislature, the gap between Mississippi and our neighbors will be much wider in the near future.
Both the Senate and the House adjourned yesterday and headed home for the weekend, so today would be a great time for you to contact your legislator regarding SB 2770. Click here for legislative contact information. Legislators will return to the capitol Monday afternoon. You may call the capitol switchboard (601-359-3770) next week to leave a message for your representative and senator. You may call 601-359-3200 to share your thoughts with Lt. Governor Reeves and 601-359-3300 to reach Speaker Gunn’s office. Explain that you will be monitoring developments closely and you will remember the final pay raise amount when you head to the voting booth later this year. As you know, Lt. Governor Reeves is running for Governor and several legislators face opponents or are running for statewide office, including Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke (601-359-3250) who is running for State Treasurer.
Your legislator is elected to represent you and the other constituents in his/her district. Education is not a partisan issue and a competitive teacher pay raise is not about politics. It is about the future of our state.
MPE has received several inquiries regarding the legislature’s significant pay raise for local elected officials. A bill that could increase county supervisors’ pay by $10,000 and increase circuit clerks’ salaries by as much as $9,000 is headed to conference. These raises would be funded with county funds generated by the legislature’s approval of increased fees counties may charge for services. The teacher pay raise will be paid with state funds via the MAEP appropriation. While legislators have increased the revenue stream for county pay raises, they have passed a series of tax cuts in recent years which have impacted the state revenue stream, including legislation in 2016 to phase out the state’s $260-million-a-year corporate franchise tax, to cut $145 million a year in income taxes, and to lower self-employment taxes by $10.2 million yearly.
In other legislative news, special elections were held this past Tuesday for three House seats vacated last November when the former representatives who held the seats were elected to various state and county judge positions:
- House District 32 (Leflore County): Attorney Solomon Osborne won Tuesday’s special election.
- House District 71 (Hinds County): Ronnie Crudup, Jr. won Tuesday’s special election.
- House District 101 (Lamar County): A run-off election will be held on April 2 between Kent McCarty and Steven Ultroska, as none of the five candidates received more than 50% of the votes in Tuesday’s special election.
Finally, don’t forget to wear your #BlueForMSteachers each Friday during the legislative session to show your support for Mississippi’s public school teachers. Please take a picture of yourself and/or your co-workers, family and friends wearing blue and share it on social media using the hashtag #BlueForMSteachers. Please tag MPE (@MSProfEd) on Twitter and Facebook.