Give it a break, guys. The we-can’t-spend-money-we-don’t-have argument is just a little too false-hearted.
The GOP talking point was embellished by House Public Health Committee Chairman Sam Mills:
“What I always tell my children, gentlemen, is that we can’t print money,” Mims said. “Often I look outside in my backyard, and I say, ‘Do you see a money tree?’ And I don’t see a money tree. … So tell them we’re doing the best we can with the budget we have today.”
Well, of course there is no money tree, because the Legislature, under GOP leadership, has been impulsively whacking mature money trees and not planting new ones.
“More than 40 tax cuts lawmakers have passed over the last five years,” the Clarion-Ledger reported, “for next year will reduce state revenue by more than $350 million.”
“Tax collections have been lagging for two years, thanks to tax cuts and a barely growing state economy,” reported the Associated Press.
Starting next fiscal year, another $415 million in tax cuts will begin phasing in, whacking even more money trees.
Meanwhile, efforts to plant new money trees have been blocked.
Gov. Phil Bryant encouraged legislators to consider a state lottery that could generate $100 million in new money.
House Speaker Philip Gunn blocked that money tree.
The Speaker pushed to collect taxes on Internet sales that could add $60 to $100 million in new revenues.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves blocked that money tree.
The Tax Foundation expert Gunn and Reeves brought in to help revamp the state’s tax structure said gas taxes should be increased to pay for needed road and bridge repairs.
But, both Gunn and Reeves blocked that money tree.
They also ignored a call by House Conservative Coalition President Becky Currie to delay the upcoming tax cuts.
The combination of widespread tax cuts, minimal economic growth, and no new revenue sources has resulted in four mid-year budget cuts by Gov. Phil Bryant this year, following two last year, deep draws on the state’s rainy day fund, and a miserable budget outlook for the coming year.
“This is deliberate wreckage we have brought on ourselves,” said Democratic Sen. David Blount, pinning the tail on the Republicans’ we-can’t-spend-money-we-don’t-have donkey.
“I have never seen it this bad,” said House Appropriations Chairman John Read.
It got worse.
The House and Senate have been killing each other’s bills. During the last days of the session things came to a head over the bond bill, Internet taxes, and transportation funding. The House put voluntary Internet tax collections into the bond bill to help fund road and bridge repairs. Reeves, then, killed the bond bill. In response, Gunn got the House to kill the Department of Transportation appropriation bill.
Reeves, then, accused House members of lying.
Appropriately, both houses adjourned without resolving differences, making a special session needed to finish their business.
Descending from false-hearted statements to falsehoods is a needless fiasco for our GOP leaders, just like their budget and this legislative session.
Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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