Gov. Kirk Fordice, who quickly developed a reputation for straightforward talk after his first inaugural four years ago, continued the practice Tuesday in his second inaugural address.
Fordice, the first Republican governor this century, in a speech almost as brief as the seven minute address of 1992, declared that he holds fast to principles that define his view of how government should operate: minimal taxation and minimal regulation.
Fordice reminded the audience of thousands that former President Ronald Reagan is his hero and quoted from Thomas Jefferson. He clearly seemed to be preparing those in state government, especially the Legislature, for his enthusiastic support of shifting programs from Washington to Jackson. He said “federal devolution” would create “tremendous opportunities” for Mississippi. The governor is right. However, the opportunities should not so tremendously reduce the effectiveness of programs that people whose need for the benefits suddenly are cut off or are left with an undefined and bleak future.
Fordice did not mention legislative participation in the river of block grants expected eventually to flow from Congress to the states. Most legislators, however, appear to want a major role in controlling and directing block grants. Sen. Dick Hall of Jackson, the newly appointed Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker Monday that he wanted legislative participation in the block grant process. Wicker, a former member of the Mississippi Senate, agreed with Hall.
Legislators also probably listened carefully when Fordice said it was not in his job description to be liked or to “get along.” The governorship, he said, is not for the “fainthearted.” The words suggest the possibility that Fordice has not bought fully into the theme of cooperation preached from the legislative side by Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and House Speaker Tim Ford.
Nobody realistically expects governors and legislators to agree about everything, but Mississippi does have great opportunities for progress and planning as a new millennium approaches. The governor has been given an exceptional invitation by the legislative leadership to move forward in a joint venture. Forward together, as Fordice told Mississippians four years ago, is the only one way to move.
Fordice reminded the inaugural crowd that he had spent his whole life building things out of concrete, steel, wood and stone. He was able to do that because he knew how to write good contracts, make successful bids and execute sound designs within the money available. He can use that same flexibility and adaptability in dealing with the Legislature on the full range of fiscal and policy issues anticipated during the next four years.
No one’s principles have to be compromised to make progress because a principle is a basic truth, law or assumption. The details within principled plans and policies can vary. It is with that kind of flexibility that Gov. Fordice can make history reflect favorably on his two terms as Mississippi’s chief executive.