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GOP leaders need to step up

By Joel McNeece

I haven’t written much about the Mississippi Legislature during the recently closed session, which could be a good thing. Although the truth is, they just didn’t do a whole lot, which is kind of a bad thing.

The difficulty of crafting a state budget dominated much of the session as revenue seems to have mysteriously eluded our lawmakers after passing more than 40 tax cuts over the last few years with still the largest tax cut in Mississippi history ($415 million) to be phased in next year.

The tax cuts alone are said to have already reduced the potential of next year’s state revenue by more than $300 million.

While we appear very skilled at handing out tax cuts, finding funds for schools, road and bridge improvements and other infrastructure needs is a bit more challenging.

I’m not opposed to handing out tax cuts to anyone who needs one, but as Superintendent Mike Moore told the Calhoun County School Board last week, it would be nice if the state would pay its bills first before giving everything away to large corporations.

I’m reminded of a cartoon by my friend Marshall Ramsey from last year where Gov. Phil Bryant, Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, all in their super hero costumes, are pictured flying away from the state Capitol, left in ruins in the background, as they exclaim “Our work here is done.”

Work isn’t done this time as a special session is certainly on the horizon as the attorney general, MDOT and the vital State Aid Road Program remain unfunded. But we’re left to wonder how they’re going to reach some agreement on things when the super friends have spent so much time this past session at odds with one another.

In trying to address the revenue issue, Speaker Gunn sought to collect taxes on Internet sales, a very rational idea as online companies currently hold an unfair advantage over our local businesses. Lt. Gov. Reeves effectively killed that effort.

Some Republican members of the Legislature sought to postpone the massive tax cuts about to be implemented citing concerns for lagging state revenue, but both Lt. Gov. Reeves and Speaker Gunn killed that one.

Gov. Bryant, who was once opposed to a lottery but is now apparently for one, had that shot down by the speaker and lt. governor.

The old subject of a slight increase in the gas tax was bantered about briefly, but quickly squelched by the same duo.

Gov. Bryant has made four mid-year budget cuts and dipped deep into the rainy day fund to try and keep things afloat for this budget year. Every projection for next budget year suggests a deeper dip unless something drastic is done.

We need these three GOP leaders to stop trying to out-cut the other and find a way to work together to come up with a sensible budget for all of Mississippi.

Joel McNeece is publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.