MARTY RUSSELL: Maybe Barbour needs some hiking boots

Maybe Gov. Barbour should take a hike.
As you may have heard, the governor of South Carolina, Republican Mark Sanford, went missing for five days only to reappear Tuesday. His aides said the governor had decided to go for a hike along the Appalachian Trail to clear his head and think about some issues, like the override of 10 of his vetoes recently by the state assembly and the assembly’s victory in a court fight that forced the state to accept federal stimulus money which Sanford had refused.
Maybe Gov. Barbour should try his colleague’s technique for dealing with lawmakers who don’t agree with him. I know we don’t have the equivalent of an Appalachian Trail in Mississippi but maybe Interstate 55 would suffice. At rush hour, of course.
At issue is Barbour’s announcement late Monday, after state legislators on Sunday announced they were near an agreement on the state budget which is due by July 1, that he would not call a special session to allow a vote on the compromise budget. Experts have predicted grave consequences for the state if a budget is not enacted by July 1. Highway construction and maintenance contracts will evaporate, school districts won’t be able to hire teachers for the coming school year and Great White Sharks will swim up the Tenn-Tom Waterway. OK, maybe that last one is a stretch.
Barbour claims the compromise budget, which includes a $60 million hospital tax to prop up the state’s Medicaid spending, would not allow him to cut some of the 600,000 people in the state currently on the Medicaid rolls. Barbour also apparently is not pleased that his original request for a $90 million tax was pared down to only $60 million.
Aside from the fact that Barbour got elected in part because of a pledge not to raise taxes, proponents of the compromise budget plan argue the plan in no way prohibits the governor from culling the Medicaid rolls, it only prevents any cuts in what hospitals are currently paid for treating Medicaid patients. They say allowing that would amount to a second tax on hospitals by reducing the payments they already receive.
So here we are at high noon again, waiting to see who will blink first.
If the governor is serious – which he obviously is by spending this week in Iowa and New Hampshire – about running for president next time around, maybe he should consider how this showdown will play out in that campaign. Politics is about compromise. When one side declares that it’s their way or the highway, we no longer call them just leaders, we call them Supreme Leaders, like they have in Iran.
The smart thing to do would be to call a special session, let the Legislature vote on the compromise and, if it passes, the governor can veto it if he wants. And if the veto is overridden, then so be it.
C’mon, governor, let’s go walkin’.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu.

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