- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Dec. 15

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Mississippi became the first state to submit its mandatory Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) plan for review by the U.S. Department of Labor moving forward with the goal of strengthening the national workforce by bringing all stakeholders together to create an integrated workforce system.

Gov. Phil Bryant has challenged state and local workforce leaders to drive the process by taking immediate action aimed at achieving the vision of a modernized workforce system in Mississippi.

“The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act plan we have submitted will improve Mississippi’s existing workforce system by making the entire process more streamlined for everyone involved,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “This will help Mississippi employers fill openings and also show prospective companies looking to locate in Mississippi that we are committed to a strong workforce and are open for business.”

At the request of Gov. Bryant, the process of getting Mississippi’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor was headed by the State Workforce Investment Board, with input from the public, business community, workforce stakeholders and educational institutions.

Bill Renick, a former legislator from Benton County, long-time economic-development professional and former state executive director of economic development, is on the planning and communications committee that was key to developing the plan.

State Workforce Development Board James Williams is a former workforce official at Itawamba Community College and a longtime Corinth resident. The development board was the umbrella over all the work, which was coordinated by the governor’s office.

Renick said one key goal is to increase the percentage of Mississippi’s workforce who are eligible to work, especially in the state’s mid-level jobs.

Renick said Mississippi is second from the bottom in the percentage of the workforce population eligible for the state’s jobs.

On July 22, 2014, the WIOA was signed into law by President Obama, requiring each state to submit their workforce plan to the U.S. Department of Labor by March 2016.

Renick said it is advantageous for Mississippi to be first in submitting the plan because it enhances opportunity to become a model program under the national standards.

“We submitted the plan to the Department of Labor before there was even a portal to accept it by be electronic transmission,” Renick commented.

The deadline is in 2016 for all states.

Best of all, the process was bipartisan and tapped the best-informed and most experienced minds of the workforce sector.

Online:

http://djournal.com/

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Dec. 15

The Greenwood Commonwealth on Mississippi groundwater:

Mississippi is blessed with plenty of clean drinking water, and that isn’t something that’s going to change in the foreseeable future if ever.

But it is worth noting that Mississippi is listed in a USA Today report as being among the areas with the highest drop in groundwater levels over the last two decades.

Not to worry, say state officials. There are still plenty of aquifers down there with sufficient water to sustain the state’s population.

One area of concern, though, is here in the Delta, where irrigation demands have caused a significant decline in the Mississippi River alluvial aquifer.

That doesn’t mean the drinking water is about to run out, as this aquifer is mainly used for irrigating crops and keeping catfish ponds filled. But more controls may be needed on farmers’ use of water if the trend isn’t reversed.

The good news is the problem is being recognized and addressed.

The Mississippi Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force was formed in 2011 to facilitate and foster the development and implementation of water resource management strategies in the Delta. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Qualityled Task Force includes Delta Council, Delta F.A.R.M., Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the YazooMississippi Delta Joint Water Management District.

It’s encouraging to note that the stakeholders are involved in addressing the issue.

For example, Delta F.A.R.M. (Delta Farmers Advocating Resource Management) is an association of growers and landowners who strive to implement recognized agricultural practices to conserve, restore and enhance the environment of Northwest Mississippi.

Online:

http://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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Dec. 13

The McComb Enterprise-Journal on military bases getting state aid:

Everyone knows the willingness of states to give millions of dollars in gifts (welfare?) when large private companies build a new facility. But this has moved to the next level: Some states have started doing the same thing for military bases - which are owned by the federal government.

A report last week by The Associated Press said a growing number of states are providing money for infrastructure at military bases. The trend began a few years ago when the Defense Department’s budget for military construction started declining.

Connecticut, for example, provided $40 million for improvements to a Navy submarine base, while last year Massachusetts agreed to spend $177 on the state’s six military bases. Perhaps even more amazingly, the city of Huntsville, Ala., paid to build houses for generals on an Army base.

Advocates of this say it’s no different than making similar investments with private corporations. They are correct in noting that military bases provide plenty of employment, commercial activity and tax revenue, and those benefits need to be protected from the possibility that the Pentagon or Congress will decide to close a base.

Skeptics, however, say the states are wasting their money for two reasons: First because with a multitude of global threats, there is no current political will to close any military bases; and then because the amount of money states use to help their bases would never be enough to change the minds of decision-makers during a future round of base closings.

It’s easy to decide who’s got the better argument. Are state governments are so desperate and fearful of losing jobs that they will give huge amounts of money to operations that are clearly Washington’s responsibility?

It’s wrong to blame this on defense construction cutbacks. The current defense budget is $763 billion, and anyone who argues there’s not a few billion dollars worth of excess that could be allocated to military base improvements is not being serious.

Yes, the American military is stretched thin because of decade-long occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and now it looks like we’re going to have to renew our involvement in the Middle East to squelch the Islamic State. But guess what? State budgets are tight, too.

It’s beyond ridiculous that a state would see fit to give taxpayer funds to a military base, whose owner has far more resources and is the only entity in the country legally able to print money.

Furthermore, the decision on whether to keep a military base open needs to be guided primarily by its strategic relevance. If the amount of money a state has spent on a base plays a significant role in a closing decision, then the military is not evaluating these bases properly.

It’s easy to envision this trend making its way to Mississippi. State officials have joined the nationwide competition to attract large industrial plants, with enough success that they will be able to justify spending money on military bases.

It will be a tough decision if the day ever comes, but Republican leaders in Jackson should remember their overall skepticism about Washington and resist the temptation to help the bases. It’s far better to spend those millions of dollars around the entire state.

Online:

http://www.enterprise-journal.com/

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