Unacceptable Legislature idles away days as the budget bomb ticks

The Legislature on Tuesday returned to work empty-handed after a break since May 8 for hashing out a budget for fiscal year 2010, which starts July 1. The people assigned to work things out didn’t; the big issue remains unresolved.
Lawmakers, for this kind of non-performance, are now again paid $19,000 per day in total – $109 per member.
The recess ostensibly was to save money because legislators aren’t paid the per diem when not in session.
Speaker McCoy has urged resumption of negotiations. Is anyone listening?
We understand the complexity of making a state budget, especially in lean times, but we also know that inaction is unacceptable.
Legislators surely understand that they were not elected to draw a salary and leave undone the most essential work of governance: a budget funding and authorizing state services and obligations.
We understand that Mississippi is one of many states with similar budget-balancing and revenue issues. Most states in the South (except Texas, which is in good shape) have made or are in the process of making major budget cuts, and/or increasing taxes to help cover shortfalls.
Only one, South Carolina, appears to have a bigger political/partisan/factional impasse than Mississippi. A published report from MSNBC describes South Carolina’s situation:
“The state government is on the brink of chaos as lawmakers battle Gov. Mark Sanford over his insistence that only he can decide whether and how to spend federal stimulus money.
The Legislature overrode Sanford’s vetoes of its $5.7 billion budget plan. Sanford responded by suing the Legislature, which agreed to federal directions to use stimulus money to make up shortfalls in education spending.”
Mississippi’s not in that bad a situation, yet, but the lines are firmly drawn on several essential issues.
In California, the Legislature and Gov. Schwarzenegger went to the people with a referendum to raise or sustain taxes to cover part of the multi-billion dollar deficit. It lost about 2-1.
We believe one influential California legislator’s response to the voters’ decision applies directly to Mississippi:
“The voters are sending a message that they believe the budget is the job of the governor and Legislature,” said Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, chairwoman of the Budget Committee. “We probably need to go back and do our job.”
You think?
Mississippi won’t have a statewide referendum on the Legislature’s budget work this year. That comes in 2011, the next statewide legislative elections, and inaction on both sides of the aisle should be held accountable.

NEMS Daily Journal

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