- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Dec. 12

The Greenwood Commonwealth on state spending:

Leaders of the Mississippi Legislature are heading in the right direction on the state budget, announcing last week that they want to reduce spending by nearly $200 million from the current year.

Lowerthanexpected tax receipts already have forced Gov. Phil Bryant to cut this year’s spending. Meanwhile the Legislature, in the control of Republicans, has been determined to cut taxes - perhaps an effort to starve state government of the money it needs for routine services.

Bad decision. The more appropriate path is to focus on reducing expenses.

By any measure, most taxes in Mississippi simply are not oppressive, and the issue begs the question of whether tax cuts will cause more problems than they solve. Kansas is a good example of that.

You could make a strong case that the 7 percent sales tax rate is too much, especially on groceries. But there’s little talk of lowering it.

When it comes to the Mississippi budget, spending cuts are the way to go if Republicans are determined to trim government - or if a flat economy gives them no choice. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee voted last week to spend 3 percent less in the next budget.

Interestingly, K12 education is not a prime target of spending cuts - although it remains to be seen how a New Jersey consultant’s upcoming recommendations play a role in any final budget decision. Republicans also want to steer more money, about $20 million, to schools that show academic improvement. If that happens, it is sure to penalize rural, lowtaxbase school districts that probably are already strapped for cash.

The Associated Press reports that legislative leaders are likely to cut spending on the Medicaid program, universities, community colleges, mental health services and corrections.

Most of those have strong advocates who will be able to make a good case against any cuts. If there is one in the group that lawmakers should reconsider, it’s mental health.

Those services have been cut enough already. There are too many stories of mentally ill people being put in a jail for their own safety instead of in a treatment facility where they belong. Continuing this trend simply invites more lawsuits, which the state is likely to lose.

Other proposed cuts are more targeted, but if the state follows through, the savings would add up. Examples are reducing the travel budget by $12 million to bring it back to the level of four years ago, and saving $19 million through a oneyear moratorium on the purchase of new vehicles.

It’s unclear, though, whether the legislative committee addressed the big bear in the budget: How should the state pay for its overdue, and very expensive, road and bridge repairs?

This is where the demand for tax cuts shows its greatest flaw. Current fuel taxes cannot generate enough money to keep up with infrastructure maintenance needs. The state must either raise this tax, find another mechanism to bring in more money or let its roads and bridges deteriorate.

These are tough decisions. It’s easy to talk in December. Let’s see what happens during the first three months of the new year, when the Legislature is in session.

Online:

https://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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Dec. 11

The Oxford Eagle on the University of Mississippi’s Master’s of Business Administration program new ranking:

The University of Mississippi’s Master’s of Business Administration program has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek among the top programs in the nation for the third year in a row.

Coming in No. 36 among American public universities and No. 68 overall, it’s pretty clear the program is a power player. On top of that, the report suggests almost 90 percent of graduates find jobs within three months of graduation.

It’s a fantastic thing to see the program is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

It seems like every few weeks the university receives another honor related to its academic programs - so often, in fact that it’s all too easy to take it for granted.

Make no mistake about it - these honors are not only important, but also indicative of the quality of Ole Miss and other institutions of higher learning in Mississippi.

Congratulations to the business school, the university and the hard-working students and faculty who should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

Online:

https://www.oxfordeagle.com/

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Dec. 9

The Vicksburg Post on seasonal affective disorder:

We are in the midst of our first cold snap of the season. For many, the cold weather simply enhances the feeling of the Christmas season. It is particularly fun when the cold weather is associated with clear skies and bright sunshine.

It brings to mind cuddling up with loved ones before a roaring fire, drinking hot chocolate and contentment.

But for others, the cold weather and gray skies often conjure up other thoughts, much less happy ones.

As days get shorter, darker and colder, many people experience the blues, also known as the holiday blues.

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health says this depression for many is part of seasonal affective disorder. Experts say changing levels of the brain chemicals melatonin and serotonin, which plays a role in our mood and how we sleep, triggers the depression. Seratonin is the body’s feel-good chemical and it’s generated in part by sunlight. When we are exposed to less sunlight, we could experience lower levels of serotonin.

The good news is help is available. If you or a loved one is experiencing sadness, loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy, feelings of hopelessness or a strong depression, please reach out for help.

Experts at the Mississippi Department of Mental Health recommend making extra effort to get as much sunlight as possible. Open window blinds during the day and sit close to the window. Eat lunch outside when the weather allows. You can even benefit from being outdoors when it’s cloudy.

Staying active and continuing to exercise can help fight seasonal depression, as well as stress and anxiety. Spending time with family and friends who make up your support network can help, too.

However, if depression and sadness begin to affect your everyday life, it’s time to ask for help.

The Department of Mental Health operates a toll-free, 24-hour seven-day-a-week help line: 1-877-210-8513. Callers can seek information for themselves or for others.

Anyone who believes they or a loved one is in need of help is encouraged to call.

Online:

https://www.vicksburgpost.com/

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