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Think tank blasts Legislature`s role

Fordice`s grades take dip

Gov. Kirk Fordice`s fiscal policy grades might be slipping, but a Washington-based think tank is blaming the Mississippi Legislature for its role in Fordice`s mediocre performance review.

In 1994, he scored an “A.” Two years ago, the Cato Institute called Fordice “a taxpayer`s best friend.” He got a “B.” The latest study shows his grade slipping to a “C.”

“We thought two very important points were pointed out by Cato. More than any other governor, his grade reflected the opposing fiscal philosophy of the Legislature rather than his own,” said Robbie Wilbur, spokesman for the governor. “And spending of taxes would have been substantially higher had it not been for Fordice`s fiscal restraint. Cato realized how difficult it is to get a tax cut in Mississippi. The governor`s proposed tax cuts and veto of the one-cent sales tax in 1992 was mentioned in the report.”

In his first year in office, Fordice vetoed a one-cent sales tax hike, but the primarily Democratic Legislature overrode the veto. In 1994, a proposed 1% income tax cut was ignored, but a capital gains tax was approved. Fordice proposed income tax cuts again in 1995 and 1996 that were rejected by the Legislature.

“Cato is a libertarian-type organization,” Wilbur said. “They`re for as small a government as possible. Therefore, they`re always for tax cuts, downsizing, smaller government, more responsive state government and that sort of thing.”

The Cato report noted that “Fordice is faced with a Legislature that has vaults of new money to spend and is all to willing to do so. Despite…repeated vetoes, he has had little success at reining in state spending.”

“Since Gov. Fordice took office, he has said that government should be smaller, and should not be taking in more and more tax revenue,” Wilbur said. “Look at the difference in the fiscal year budgets from 1992 to 1998. The budget`s gone up about a billion dollars

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