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Rose-colored glasses don’t help state budget

Who’s wearing the rose-colored glasses in Jackson?

Despite months of sluggish revenue collections and hand-wringingover budget cuts because lawmakers have already planned to spendtoo much money this year, some are sticking to next-year growthexpectations that aren’t based in reality.

State budget planners and lawmakers are basing spending plans on3.7 percent growth when 1 percent growth may be more realistic.They say reducing expectations could cost state employees jobs andwould be another “sledgehammer” blow to state agencies on the heelsof this year’s budget cuts.

A sledgehammer now seems better than a wrecking ball later. AsSen. Tim Johnson suggested, limiting spending until the state has abetter idea of its financial picture would be a preferred course ofaction.

Others have also sounded a skeptical tone about the 3.7 percentgrowth estimates.

“I haven’t met anybody who thinks it’s going to be that,” saidCopiah-Lincoln Community College President Dr. Howell Garner duringa recent board of trustees meeting.

While certainly not alone, the state’s community colleges havealready been hit by the budget ax. Garner told trustees theadministration has to be prepared to cut again should money notmeet expectations.

More significantly, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has called theprojections “inflated” and threatened to veto legislation unlessthe 3.7 percent number is reduced. A showdown between the governorand the legislature is brewing.

Even some Republicans are siding with the Democraticgovernor.

“It is irresponsible for legislative leaders to create a statebudget based on revenue levels that are unlikely to materialize,”said Mike Retzer, state GOP party chairman.

However, Retzer said there is “plenty of blame to go around.”During past good economic times, he said Musgrove, as lieutenantgovernor, was among those lawmakers who were spending money “likesailors on shore leave.”

Musgrove now should continue his efforts in at least trying torein in a spend-happy legislature that insists on a sunny tomorrowdespite today’s storm clouds.