Senate candidates discuss tort reform, state budget woes

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Editor’s Note: Today The DAILY LEADER continuesa special question-and-answer series with candidates in someimportant upcoming county elections. Featured today is the race forMississippi Senate, District 39. Both candidates areparticipating.

During a special legislative session in 2002, lawmakersenacted tort reform measures in an effort to improve the state’slegal climate and its reputation for “jackpot justice.” Do youbelieve the measures went far enough in addressing the situation?If not, what more needs to be done?

Cindy Hyde-Smith: I feel that we must do moreto establish a stable legal environment. We passed a very good billaddressing tort reform, and I was proud to be a supporter. However,until we place some caps on lawsuits I feel that insurance premiumswill continue to soar.

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W.L. Rayborn: After an 83-day special sessioncosting taxpayers over two million dollars, we need to see how thereforms work. Only now the general public is becoming aware of thelegislation passed. The medical providers still have problems withcost and availability of insurance. Small rural hospitals stillexperience the same problems they did before the special session.We still have problems this legislation addressed but did notsolve.

In recent years, lawmakers have used “one-time money” topatch a number of budget holes. Some political observers believe atax increase of some kind is inevitable next year. To avoid thatunpopular possibility, what would you do to stabilize revenuestreams and control state spending?

Cindy Hyde-Smith: I feel we have severaloptions to avoid a tax increase. It’s easy to tell state agenciesto “tighten their belts.” I think we need to take a close look atbudgets and bring in analysts to help them “tighten their belts.”We need to look at all the tax credits we currently give. No onewants to give up a tax credit but it may become necessary. I thinkwe need to change the way we predict our future revenue intake.Instead of guessing what our growth rate will be, let’s base ourbudget on the actual collections of the previous year.

W.L. Rayborn: Let me say at the beginning, Iwill not support a tax increase. Any tax increase will furtherstagnate the economy.

Our budget system needs to be prioritized. Education, healthcare for seniors, public safety must be funded first. Other budgetscan then be reviewed as their need for public service.

Tuesday: Lincoln County Tax Assessor.