Here Comes Mr. Tax Increase

Naturally, it was the Temptations who sang our song, “Get Ready.”

Back in the day, Mississippi shunned federal funds. But the temptations became too great. Jamie Whitten, John Stennis, and Thad Cochran became powerful chairman of congressional Appropriations Committees. And Mississippi began to sing “who makes my dreams real, I say that you do.”

Last week Newsweek/Daily Beast listed Mississippi as the number one hog at the federal trough. From 2007 to 2009, the report shows Mississippi paid $11.06 billion in federal taxes, but got back $31.27 billion in federal spending. That’s $2.83 back for every $1 sent to Washington, surpassing West Virginia’s $2.82 rate.

Now, these dollars, as they hit and turnover in Mississippi, play a huge role in our $92 billion state economy.

The three newer Congressmen from Mississippi won’t sing along with Jamie, John, and Thad. They already helped kill off earmarks, where Mississippi was also top hog. They want to shrivel the federal trough and push through big, lasting cuts in federal spending.

Not that cuts are bad. Clearly, the U.S. is living far beyond its means. Cutbacks in federal spending are prudent and necessary. But, as the number one hog at the federal trough, Mississippi will see its economy walloped more than most.

“Get ready ’cause here I come.”

Now, let’s see: A beaming Legislature wrapped up its session with a “balanced” budget that doesn’t fully fund anything and projects a large shortfall next year; stimulus funds have dried up; Mississippi has one of the nation’s higher total debt burdens; and, based on current trends, not counting any new federal cutbacks, the state economist projects sluggish growth in our economy.

I’ve almost got it – slow growth, underfunded programs, heavy debt, and a projected revenue shortfall…hmmm.

Then, there’s the big wallop on the way from Washington…hmmm.

For two years one of the strongest governors in Mississippi history tried to get us ready. He asked the Legislature to rightsize government, cut some programs, and consolidate others. The results? Nada. Zilch.

Oh, yes, the Legislature trimmed budgets, but no real government reform occurred. Agencies just hunkered down for a while.

“Look out baby!” All those agencies plan to unhunker as soon as this election season is over. They’re going to fight hard for more money, knowing the best time to get it is the first session of a newly elected Legislature.

“So get ready!” Here comes Mr. Tax Increase singing “I’m gonna try to make you love me.” He’ll be driving a team of white horses called schools, colleges, and universities, but pulling a covered wagon jammed “outta sight” with ravenous agencies. Trailing behind will be all those legislators who crooned “it’s alright” for two years.

Fiddley-deeds, fiddly-dumb.

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