TUESDAY, JAN. 2, 2007

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Dowdy slams Republicans for House vote

JACKSON (Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007) – The Mississippi Democratic Party chairman slammed Republican state House members and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour for killing attempts today to fully fund education and raise teacher pay.

Wayne Dowdy said he was shocked that Republican lawmakers, led by Barbour, would oppose such high-profile proposals as ones to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, fund state universities and community colleges and give teachers about a 3 percent raise.

“This is an example of Republicans playing politics rather than looking out for the best interests of all Mississippians – and with the future of our children at stake, those kinds of actions are dead wrong,” Dowdy said.

“House Speaker Billy McCoy and other Democrats are offering strong leadership for Mississippi,” Dowdy said. “But the Republicans appear ready to sell the state and the people short. This is not acceptable.”

State House and Senate members opened the three-month 2007 session of the Mississippi Legislature today. House members immediately went to work, with the House Education and House Appropriations committees passing several bills.

Besides education funding and teacher pay, other proposals passed by the committees included a raise for state employees; money to fund a Highway Patrol trooper training class; money to fund Department of Mental Health crisis centers; and money for the Department of Insurance to fund the wind pool and ease insurance rates on Coast commercial property.

Most Republicans voted en bloc against bringing any of the bills before the full House for a vote. Four Democrats in the House joined the Republicans in opposing all or some of the proposals – and Dowdy said that move “disappointed him.”

Key Democratic leaders in the House said they were surprised by the votes on Tuesday.

“All of these bills were about putting aside some of the major funding issues we deferred on the last several years, decisions we all know need to be made,” said House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, a Democrat from Jackson.

“We were ready to do it,” Brown said. “Everybody knew what the issues were. Everybody knew what the numbers were. Why in the world they did this today, I don’t know. It’s obviously a political vote.”

State Rep. Steve Holland, a Democrat from Plantersville, also was upset.

“It reminded me of playing Russian Roulette with the people of Mississippi,” Holland said. “We were talking about meat, taters and bread issues: public education, public safety, mental health (and), God forbid, the wind pool on the Gulf Coast.

“There was nothing sinister about what we did. It was just a complete upfront prioritization of the House of Representatives of what we think is right for the people of Mississippi. I don’t know where the Republicans are – out in some ozone.”

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