By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Thirty-year-old Lucien Smith says that if he’s elected the state’s next treasurer, he wants to stand between easy politics and a sound state budget.
“There’s immense pressure on the Legislature to make decisions that are good for politics and bad for taxpayers,” he said Tuesday on a campaign visit to Tupelo.
Smith, a Flowood native, bills himself as the only candidate for the office who has spent time making tough fiscal recommendations, as Gov. Haley Barbour’s budget adviser.
He seeks the Republican Party nomination over Lynn Fitch of Madison, executive director of the State Personnel Board, and state Sen. Lee Yancey of Brandon, in the Aug. 2 primary.
The winner will face Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran, a Democrat, and perennial state candidate Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg, running on the Reform Party label, in the November general election.
Tate Reeves, the current treasurer, is running for lieutenant governor.
Smith, an attorney, comes with the hallmarks of an elite higher education, first at Harvard College and then University of Virginia Law School.
Right out of law school, he clerked for U.S. 5th Circuit Judge Rhesa Barksdale.
Smith predicts one challenge facing the next treasurer: reforming the Public Employees Retirement System, which he views as sound but facing financial difficulties without prudent change.
“We must figure out how to make sure retirees get the money they’ve been promised,” he noted, “without taxpayers having to bail it out.”
He suggests a careful consideration of solutions, with one being to change the structure for new state employees to take the pressure off increasing state contributions.
He said he believes the campaign hinges on who the voters believe will do the best job, especially for what he calls “honest budgeting.”
He praised the state’s record under Barbour and Reeves for cautious, conservative fiscal policies.