BY: Lyn Fortenbery
I believe every child deserves the best education that he or she can possibly achieve. In order for a successful future for all children and future Natchezians or Mississippians, there first and foremost needs to be a future for them. The future of our state and our town is at risk if Initiative 42 is passed.
The citizen’s initiative was, in fact, signed by the requisite number of Mississippians to place it on the ballot. I seriously doubt if 3 percent had the opportunity to read the initiative before signing the petition. I probably would have signed it as well if I thought it would benefit the children of our state. However, what has not been discussed is the actual plan if this is added into the Constitution of our State. First, there is no Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) reference to phase in the formula that is currently used regarding education mentioned at all in 42. There is also nothing in 42 regarding how the money will be dispersed. This initiative gives control to one judge in Hinds county over half of the State’s budget, determining where the additional $201 Million will come from. That’s where the future of Natchez and our great state is at risk. The $201 million will more than likely be taken from State funds, cutting agency budgets such as Public Universities, Community Colleges, Tourism, Performing Arts institutions, Economic Development and many more.
Tourism contributes $388 million to the General fund each year. The State Division of Tourism currently operates with a $3 million budget (less than half of our neighboring states). We have asked for an additional $5 million for advertising and marketing, and to reinstate a matching grant program to provide additional funds for those communities with small budgets to be given the opportunity to market their product. Of the $388 million provided to the state’s general fund each year from the tourism industry, we are requesting this increase as a return on our investment to the state. Our total request of $8 million is less than 3 percent of what tourism contributes to the general fund. If 42 passes, Mississippi’s tourism industry is at risk to not only receive the funding, but have the $3 million budget cut by as much as 7.8 percent, causing Mississippi to fall further in advertising and marketing, compared to our neighboring states.