Mississippi editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

August 18

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on teen pregnancy:

We congratulate Mississippi teens for showing an increasing amount of common sense.

We're talking about the 15 percent decline (at least) in the teen birth rate and we congratulate Gov. Phil Bryant for helping make that happen.

We may never know all the factors that contributed to the decline but we're glad we have a governor who has been out front on this issue.

He made it a priority in the early days of his administration.

We agree with him that reducing teen pregnancy is a key to making Mississippi a more successful state.

Mississippi does what it can to help teens stay in school when they are pregnant or when they have infant children. But teens have the best chance of succeeding if they put off starting families until after they are out of school.

Bryant tells them as much, adding his voice to those of the clergy, of teachers, of caring parents who warn teens of the hard road ahead for those with the extra burden of pregnancy.

"If you want to fail in life, if you want to end up being on Medicaid, CHIPs (the state's insurance program for poor children) and food stamps the rest of your life, if you never want to have a career, then all you've got to do is drop high school and have a baby," Bryant told about 200 young people at a teen pregnancy prevention conference in December 2012, according to The Associated Press.

"And I can almost assure you that's what's going to happen to you."

We'd like to think the governor's words sunk in and we encourage him to bring that message to each new class of teenagers, who are at the age that without guidance and encouragement, they are apt to make choices that could haunt them for years.

Online:

http://www.sunherald.com

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August 18

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on state tax:

Next year is an election year for everyone in state government, which means decisions will skew even more than usual toward what's politically popular. What's good politics, however, is not always what's best for the state.

Consider the current rumblings of a tax cut to be considered in the 2015 legislative session. The state's top three leaders - Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn - all appear to be jockeying for position in advocating what Reeves calls "a raise for taxpayers."

It's got a good political ring to it, especially if you can hear the footsteps of a Tea Party primary challenger behind you, as both Bryant and Reeves are no doubt contemplating. It's a surefire way to solidify your conservative bonafides and seize the momentum from anyone coming at you from the right.

But there are many fiscal conservatives who also realize that Mississippi has many unmet and underfunded needs and who know that now is not the time for the state to reduce its revenues.

The state revenue picture finally has begun to improve after several down years following the recession. During these years K-12 education has been underfunded hundreds of millions of dollars in violation of the formula set out in state law. Universities and community colleges have sustained cuts from which they haven't yet recovered. The state's highways, bridges and infrastructure are in dire need of repairs, a situation that will only get worse with time.

These areas are the foundation of any progress the state hopes to make, and it's time to shore them up, not reduce the state's ability to make the investments that will pay off in an improved economy for everyone in the future.

If it could be demonstrated that a state tax cut would unleash such a burst of economic activity that it would actually produce more revenue in the long run, there might be an argument for it. But any state tax cut is highly unlikely to have such an impact.

If Mississippians' overall tax burden were especially burdensome, there might be justification for a tax cut, but it's not.

What we're left with is making voters happy, and that's an easy thing to do by cutting taxes. But easy is not the same thing as prudent and responsible.

Online:

http://djournal.com

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August 18

The Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on smoking ban:

It's often said that the states are the incubator for the nation. Public policy ideas get tested and refined at the state level. Once the ideas prove workable and effective on a smaller scale, then Congress considers implementing them nationwide.

The same principle could be applied to the relationship between municipal governments and the state.

Try something new out small. Once you see how it does at the local level and how well it is received by the populace, then expand it statewide.

In Mississippi, the Legislature unfortunately has been reluctant to follow this model when it comes to banning smoking indoors at public places.

So far, 85 towns and cities in this state have adopted ordinances that ban smoking inside buildings open to the public. Greenwood was one of the early adopters.

The bans have been highly popular. That should not come as a surprise. Even though Mississippi has a higher-than-average incidence of smokers, non-smokers still outnumber them 3-to-1.

Yet, the Mississippi Legislature has been stuck in its default mode — resistant to government oversight of personal behavior — and old science in repeatedly rejecting proposals to implement a statewide ban. It has ignored the fact that smokers aren't just hurting themselves. Their habit poses scientifically documented risks to the health of non-smokers by exposing them to the noxious fumes.

The main benefit of a statewide smoking ban, of course, is to protect non-smokers from avoidable disease. It could also encourage some smokers to quit. Smoking is a very tough habit to break. The more hassle it becomes to light up, the greater the incentive smokers have to go through the withdrawal pains of giving up cigarettes.

If the Legislature can't see that the benefits of an indoor smoking ban far outweigh any reservations over infringing on personal freedom, than it should punt the question to the people. Based on the experience that Greenwood and other cities have had with smoking bans, such a referendum should pass easily.

Online:

http://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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