State leadership should listen to MEC advice

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blake Wilson, the president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, repeated some familiar messages Tuesday at the Picayune Rotary meeting.

To be economically competitive and attractive to businesses, he reminded us, Mississippi needs to improve its infrastructure and its education system. The 60 or so people in attendance could not have been surprised by any of this or in any disagreement.

Indeed, whether one is a Democrat or a Republican, it should be evident to all that our state’s roads and bridges must be kept up to attract businesses and keep businesses here. Wilson’s point was less to educate the audience and more to begin a conversation.

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Wilson’s talk was, in part, a gauge of community feeling on matters such as economic competitiveness and outlook. While we are reassured that locally people believe the economy is improving, Wilson’s talk demonstrated that there is quite a bit of doubt about our region’s and our state’s ability to compete for jobs.

Wilson said the MEC will release a report in a couple of weeks that will outline policy suggestions for the 2016 legislative year in Jackson, and no doubt the MEC will advocate for repairing roadways and improving education. We don’t yet know what Wilson’s group will suggest, but we hope everything—including tax hikes—is on the table.

Our state has hundreds of good things to tout—the people are great, the climate is mild and our labor force is willing to work, but we also have problems, such as those named above.

Those problems can be fixed with good policy, intelligent leadership and money.

In each of the past four years, our state has produced budget surpluses and each year, the governor talks of tax cuts, even though taxes are already relatively modest in Mississippi. This year, if there is a surplus, we hope our governor and our legislature will take the extra money and listen to what the MEC has to say. Money, when invested wisely, can create more money.