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Trying to add things up tough without a dime to spare

It just doesn’t add up.

Mississippi is in a budget crunch. That’s what happens when your outgo exceeds your income. Every family knows how that happens. You get in a little bit of a pinch, run up the credit card, and hope for better times. But when things don’t improve, you face a dilemma. There are only two ways to fix the problem. You either have to make more money or spend less.

Years of a tight economy, coupled with unbridled spending have left Mississippi with a big hole in its pocket. When the money is rolling in, you don’t have to make choices about spending. You just keep throwing the dollars around like there’s no tomorrow, but when you get down to your last few coins, you have to make tough choices about those purchases.
Mississippians must decide what they want from government.

Then, we must demand our legislators fund those important issues as the necessities of our lives. The luxuries and frivolous spending must fall by the wayside. And if the necessities are not covered by the income currently coming in, we must be willing to pony up our share through taxes. It’s called put up or shut up.

The budget issue is not going away. We’ve already suffered through education cuts, Medicaid cuts and cuts to state employee benefits. Now, the Legislature is faced with cutting actual personnel to make up for the shortfall. While it’s easy to turn your back on things that don’t affect you, don’t forget that the “common good” is important to all of us.
But it doesn’t add up.

In the middle of all the hullabaloo over a sickly revenue stream, I read about a beef processing plant and its owner, who simply stuck his hand out. Richard Hall, on a wing and a prayer, gets state-backed funding to the tune of $35 million dollars. Now, that’s not chicken feed.

And that’s just the loan side. The state, along with our illustrious federal government, offered up $8 million dollars in grants. “Grant” — that’s another word for handout.

All was done in the name of economic development.
Now, the plant is shut down, only a few short months after opening for business. Did no one check out this guy? Did no one monitor the progress of the business? Hey, that was my money you were handing out!

House Speaker Billy McCoy claims he was just trying to make sure the “small guys” got a break. Where was I when that memo was passed out? I’m a small guy. I know a lot of other small guys out there who could use state grants and loans to open and expand businesses. And I bet we could make it past a few months.

I have a better idea for my tax dollars: Mr. McCoy, send me back my money! When my local school district needs cash, I’ll write them a check. When Miss Lilly around the corner can’t pay her drug bill, I’ll slip a little money under her door. When my neighbor, the State of Mississippi employee, faces a lay-off, I’ll ship a few greenbacks to his department. I certainly think I can do a better job of making those tough choices.

What’s important to Mississippians? Ask us. Then fund those parts of government which we consider necessary. We don’t mind paying when it’s important. We don’t mind helping our neighbors. And we don’t mind sucking it up for the common good. But don’t ask for our hard-earned dollars, then squander them on ill-timed, ill-fated pet projects. Personally, I don’t have a dime to spare!

Mr. McCoy, you’ve got some explaining to do.

Nancy Lottridge Anderson, CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Clinton. Her e-mail address is nanderson@newper.com, and she’s online at www.newper.com. Her column appears monthly in the Mississippi Business Journal.

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