Bold Steps Not Taken

Back in November, facing multi-year budget cuts, Governor Haley Barbour proposed bold steps to reorganize and rightsize Mississippi government. Among them were 18 proposals to close, move, merge, and de-fund agencies and institutions.

The Legislature reconvened this week to finalize appropriations for next year. Guess how many of the 18 proposals they embraced? None…despite $500 million in cuts this year, and more looming.

No university mergers – the Legislature ignored the Governor’s call to merge Alcorn and Valley into JSU and MUW into MSU.

Still pending is the Blue Ribbon Commission report on K-12 consolidation. Due April 1, the report will likely come after the Legislature adjourns. Ironically, College Board member Aubrey Patterson heads the Commission. The College Board also disregarded the Governor’s university merger plans. Wonder what position Patterson will take on schools?

The Mississippi School for the Arts will not merge with the School for Math and Science. The School for the Deaf and Blind will not be moved. And, no community college athletic programs or satellite campuses will be downsized or eliminated.

The Legislature still has to cut up to $100 million more from next year’s budget. That’s on top of this year’s $500 million.

None of the four mental health facilities or six crisis centers targeted by the Governor will be closed.

No agencies will be consolidated or de-funded as the Governor recommended. The Mississippi Forestry Commission, the Department of Agriculture and Commerce, and related boards and commissions will not be consolidated. The Department of Banking and Consumer Finance will not be absorbed by the Secretary of State. Grand Gulf Military Monument operations will not be taken over by the Department of Archives and History. And, the Mississippi Technology Alliance, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions and the Mississippi River Parkway Commission will not lose state funding.

ABC wine functions will not be privatized. The MDOT Enforcement Division will not move under the Department of Public Safety.

About $400 million in federal stimulus money propping up next year’s budget will disappear July 1, 2011.

Two meek steps: The Governor recommended closing Oakley Training Center and merging MUW. Instead, the Legislature is downsizing Oakley and MUW is transferring its back shop operations to MSU.

Periodically, most of us have to reorganize and rightsize our closets – push stuff we wear to the front; throw out stuff that doesn’t fit any more. State government’s closet is full of stuff that no longer fits our needs and some stuff that should be pushed to the front.

Sure seems like the right time for legislators to redo the state closet. Wonder if A&E’s “Hoarders” might do a reality special on state closets?

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