Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove this week acknowledged the seemingly

Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove this week acknowledged the seemingly inevitable creation of block grants to fund important federal and federal-state programs, and he took a practical step toward dealing with the change when he appointed a task force to look at the big picture and the small details as they come into focus.

Block grants, under anticipated budget rules, could be sent to President Clinton in July. The block grant system would end entitlement programs like Aid to Families With Dependent Children welfare mothers and children) and Medicaid (medical care for the poor and disabled) as they have been known. The division of money would fall much more heavily on states with much less regulation from Washington. The extent of changes in either direction hasn’t been decided.

Musgrove’s task force will have an unenviable task: It must strip away all the political and bureaucratic fantasies about federally funded scared cows and look at the best way to do a good job with smaller increases in funding or actual reductions. Most of the programs that need to come before the task force for discussion achieve great good in Mississippi. Medicaid provides basic health care for about 500,000 people; AFDC provides nutritional guarantees for another 50,000.

It’s been suggested that public hearings be held in every congressional district. Broaden the reach; hold hearings in most of the major cities of every region to make the task force accessible to more people.

Accurate information should be the essential element in determining how block grants are handled. A broader net to gather information will provide the task force and, ultimately, the Legislature and governor with a balanced perspective from which decisions should be made.

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