The Mississippi Legislature wrapped up its 2015 session last Thursday, but it may not be through working for the year…nor should it be, say some.
When Senate and House conferees on Governor Phil Bryant’s popular $50 million workforce training bill suddenly let the bill die, speculation immediately began that Bryant will call a special session to revive it.
The bill died when Senate negotiators tried to turn the bill into both a tax cut for businesses as well as a workforce training bill. House negotiators didn’t go along with that substantive of a change.
The Senate under Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves clearly wants a business tax cut this year. Was this last minute move on the governor’s bill by the Senate a ploy to get Bryant to include a business tax cut in a special session?
“I hope the first thing on it (special session agenda) is the opportunity for comprehensive tax relief,” Reeves told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
Bryant told the Clarion-Ledger, “there’s a possibility of putting several things together for a special session.”
This workforce bill debacle is just one of several incidents in Republican dominated state government that points to GOP leaders’ difficulty in working together. Allegedly, a recommendation by Bryant that management of prison agricultural lands be transferred to the Office of the Secretary of State died because some GOP leaders are disgruntled with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. A similar proposal to transfer the Inmate Welfare Fund to the Office of the State Treasurer allegedly died because some in the GOP are disgruntled with State Treasurer Lynn Fitch.
And then there was the whole tax cut debacle in itself. The Republican Governor, Republican Lt. Governor, and Republican Speaker of the House all proposed tax cuts to the Republican controlled Legislature, but somehow none survived.
The real message from this session may be that Republicans can’t get along well enough to govern effectively.
Even before the session ended criticism was on the rise. The Biloxi Sun-Herald wrote last week:
“This session of the Legislature has been particularly irksome in the amount of political grandstanding it has featured, from a grandiose scheme to eliminate the personal income tax to a commitment to transparency and accountability that grows weaker as the session draws to a close.
“It is the shameful art of giving lip service to good public policy while undermining every effort to actually do something good.”
Legislators leave town with a long list of what they call “accomplishments” including authorizing $6.2 billion in total spending. This includes increased spending for education (K-12, community colleges, and universities), special needs students, and Medicaid but not much else. Legislators also authorized $450 million in new borrowing for a multitude of projects.
Will these accomplishments satisfy voters, or will something more be needed from a special session?