BILL CRAWFORD: A few Mississippi facts to ponder

By Bill Crawford

Did you know… For 2009, the year after the Great Recession hit, per capita income fell in all 50 states. Only nine states got back to 2008 levels, or higher, for 2010.
Did you know that Mississippi was one of those nine?
Turns out per capita income increases, along with job creation, were a hallmark of Gov. Haley Barbour’s term. Even with the dip caused by the Great Recession, Mississippi per capita income increased 34 percent during his eight years. This was driven, in part, by consistent employment growth under Barbour up to the recession.
Did you know that in February 2008, just prior the recession’s impact, non-farm employment in Mississippi hit its highest level ever?
For over two decades the Legislature has authorized millions in state bonds to pay for construction and building maintenance at Mississippi universities. How much does this cost? It’s not clear.
From 1998 through 2008, the state issued $683,558,500 in university bonds and over the next four years the Legislature authorized another $251,800,000 for an average of about $62 million a year.
Did you know debt service (principal and interest) for these university bonds calculates to be about $90 million a year?
University bonds were part of the recent bond bill brouhaha in Legislature. Philip Gunn’s House proposed $96 million in new university bonds, a higher than average amount that would increase costs. Tate Reeves’ Senate proposed a lower than average amount of $58 million.
University officials regularly complain to the Legislature about the decline in state funding as a percentage of their operating budgets.
Did you know they don’t count university debt service costs, which are paid by the state, in those percentages?
Mississippi has been proud of its growing four-lane highway system, but hasn’t gotten much national acclaim until lately. The Reason Foundation out of California rates state highway systems each year. Data lags so the most recent report covers 2008. From 2004 through 2007, Mississippi’s highway system rated in the middle of the 50-state pack. For 2008, however, Mississippi’s system rated 16th nationally, moving ahead of neighbors Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
“Mississippi improved 12 spots, from 28th to 16th, by reducing costs in three categories and improving condition in six measures,” said the report.
Did you know Mississippi’s best rating was in “lowest per-mile maintenance disbursements?” The state rated 8th nationally at $10,313 per mile. North Dakota was lowest at $4,017 per mile, New Jersey the highest at $123,844 per mile.
Did you know Mississippi’s worst rating was in “fatality rates?” The state rated 45th nationally at 1.79 deaths per million miles driven. The state has consistently improved its fatality rate, improving from 3.23 in 1984. But, it regularly rates near the bottom compared to other states.
Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.