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Prudent budgeting

MBJ Editorial

As the Legislature and the governor continue to spar over a state budget for FY 2002, which begins July 1st, many Mississippians are wondering how we ended up in this fiscal mess.

Where has all the money gone?

Mississippi, and the rest of the country, have experienced a period of record economic expansion and growth of opportunities the past few years. Times have been good.

Unfortunately, tax collections, the state’s most important source of revenue, have not been as large as projections indicated. And that’s always a risk when we project.

Projections could come true, but they could just as easily be off, and that is why budgets based on projections must be conservative — and lean. Prepare for the worst and be relieved when it doesn’t happen.

That’s not happening this year. While state legislators have appeared to struggle with making cuts and spending wisely, none of it will matter because of the optimistic revenue forecasts used for FY 2002 budgeting.

At some point, now or later, more cuts in state services, agencies and yes, probably workers, too, will have to be made.

The current battle between Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and the Legislature is really about who will make those cuts. Nothing like a good game of politics to get in the way of good governing.

Mississippi’s legislators need to take a leadership role in making these cuts. It will be unpopular and painful and costly when it comes to political capital, but it’s the right thing to do.

We hope that the governor and legislative leadership can develop a meaningful compromise using realistic revenue projections and salvage the state’s budget for the upcoming year.

If they can’t, then someone will pay. And while legislators might hope that Musgrove suffers alone, we’re quite certain that most Mississippians will remember yet another failure of leadership in the Legislature.

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