RINOs (Republicans In Name Only)…that’s what Tea Party and other conservative Republicans call fellow Republicans who don’t march in lockstep with their small government/low taxes dogma.
In South Carolina they have a partisan group called RINO HUNT. Its mission is to hunt out not-so-conservative Republicans in the State Legislature and replace them with true believers. You see, Republicans have majorities in both the House and Senate in South Carolina, but, apparently, they don’t all vote conservative enough for the faithful.
Now comes Mississippi with its new Republican control of the Legislature.
When the victory laps slow down and folks take off their rose colored glasses, they’re going to see a number of RINOs making up the Republican majorities in both the Mississippi House and Senate.
We’ll be able to tell pretty soon. State budget realities are bleak, meaning legislators must find more revenue or cut spending. Not-RINO, real Republicans would choose spending cuts and try to deliver on promises for smaller government.
They’ve got a problem though. Many boxed themselves in with other promises during recent campaigns.
The biggest single budget item in state government is education. Most candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike, pledged to support education. And education, from K-12 schools to community colleges to universities, is clamoring for more spending. So cuts, like freezing teachers’ STEP increases for a year or consolidating K-12, community college, and university back-room administrative services, seem off the table.
The biggest overall costs in state government come from salaries and benefits, whether paid directly by the state or by universities, colleges, or schools using state money. Again, Republicans and Democrats alike pledged not to touch retirement benefits for existing employees and retirees. This was promised in the face of escalating retirement benefit costs being shifted to taxpayers. Taxpayer covered contributions have risen from 9.75% to 12.93% of employees’ salaries and are projected to surpass 14% next year. And that’s the conservative projection. (The Tea Party has been amazingly RINO-like over this issue.)
That leaves some very difficult choices if state spending must be cut.
Fortunately for the new legislative majority, outgoing Governor Haley Barbour has left them a roadmap. His last two budgets show numerous consolidations, eliminations, and reductions that could make a serious dent in state spending.
The big items would be to free departments and agencies from State Personnel Board restrictions for two years so staff could be laid off, services cut, and budgets slashed, and closing or merging agencies or departments, e.g., closing four Department of Mental Health facilities and six crisis centers and consolidating the Mississippi Forestry Commission with the Department of Agriculture and Commerce.
Maybe we could raise revenue by taxing RINO hunts in a few years.