All must share in solution to state’s budget questions

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 23, 2009

Whether one calls them sacred cows, untouchables or some othername, Gov. Haley Barbour hit seemingly every one Monday when heannounced his executive budget recommendations for dealing with theeconomic crisis facing Mississippi.

The governor’s $5.5 billion budget proposal for next year callsfor slashing $715 million from current year spending plans throughvarious mechanisms, including reduction in the number of stateschool districts, consolidations of state universities, mergers ofsome high school level schools and outright closures of a number ofmental health facilities around the state. He even took on thebankers!

All of the governor’s targets serve important roles in the stateand advocates for each are still feeling the sting while marshalingforces to ensure their survival.

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However, the issue now is not about individual merits andprotecting turf, but rather how state leaders will deal with thecurrent economic reality to ensure the least amount of pain forcitizens and the shortest path to recovery for Mississippi as awhole.

Barbour put forth his ideas Monday. State lawmakers, whoultimately will decide the course of action, will start to havetheir say when they convene in January for the 2010 legislativesession.

Lawmakers and Barbour, since he certainly will take a role inthe budget process, no doubt have an extremely hard road ahead.From K-12 education proponents to university leaders and alumni,particularly those from the state’s historically blackinstitutions, to advocates for the mentally ill, Mississippi’sdecision-makers will be pulled in many directions.

When the time for action arrives, power plays, turf wars andpolitics will serve no purpose in pulling Mississippi out of thecurrent budget quagmire and will only delay acknowledgement thatall options must be on the table in the debate.

Someone or something somehow will have to sacrifice today toensure that as many as possible see tomorrow. No one wants to hearthat fact, but everyone will have to accept it at the end of theday when the new year budget is finally settled.