State budget crunch

The Democrats in Mississippi’s Legislature don’t have much clout these days. With Republicans commanding supermajorities in both chambers, anything the GOP leadership wants can basically be rammed through over Democratic objections.

Given their weakened political state, about all that’s left for the Democrats to do is to speak out when they believe Republicans are heading down the wrong road, and hope that the public will listen and put pressure on GOP lawmakers to reverse course.

It’s a long shot, but it’s the only realistic one they have.

Last week, the Democratic leadership sounded the alarm about the state’s current budget bind, which has prompted Gov. Phil Bryant to make five rounds of spending cuts in less than a year and a half because revenues have been coming in below projections.

The Republicans have largely attributed these adjustments to two causes: Mississippi being slow to come out of the Great Recession, and the state spending too much money when times were better.

They are definitely correct about the first one, and arguably correct about the second.

There is, however, a third factor they ignore, and of which the Democrats have tried to remind them. The GOP has gone overboard with tax cuts in recent years, mostly benefiting corporations and the well-to-do. They had done so on the promise that this fiscal policy would be rewarded with economic growth that would produce more income for the state treasury than what the tax cuts were costing.

So far, that promise — the so-called “trickle down” theory of economics — hasn’t materialized, nor has there been any objective data offered by Republicans to suggest it will. All of these tax cuts are being passed on faith of future returns, but, as other states following similar paths have previously shown, such faith often goes unrewarded.

The Democrats have called for a moratorium on new tax cuts and a postponement on the July 1 implementation of major reductions that were enacted last year.

The GOP leadership is not likely to listen. It is committed to playing this hand out, no matter the present ramifications for the state budget nor how much essential government services, such as education, public health, and roads and bridges, are neglected.

Republicans in the Legislature are gambling that the current pinch is a short-term problem. They are probably wrong. They can’t say, though, they haven’t been warned.


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