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CRAWFORD: Is everyone, including Phillip Gunn, a RINO these days

Republicans coined the term “RINO” (Republicans in Name Only) to denigrate other Republicans who didn’t toe the conservative line.

These days, I’m having trouble seeing the line.

Thought it had to do with cutting the cost and size of government, reducing public and corporate welfare, and such. Must be a different line, though, with top Republicans ignoring the line I saw.

Take Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn. He wants to re-locate the state Department of Revenue to his hometown, Clinton, from the current dilapidated building in nearby Raymond.

“I represent the people of Clinton, and they sent me here to look out for their interests,” said Gunn.

Doesn’t matter, apparently, that the $75 million purchase price for the old WorldCom headquarters in Clinton is 10 times the $7.6 million price for the alternative Landmark Center in Jackson.

Doesn’t matter that the Department of Finance and Administration, with input from a consultant, said the Landmark building was the better site and would generate savings.

Doesn’t matter that a Millsaps College study showed $30 million savings over 20 years by consolidating the Department of Revenue and smaller agencies into the Landmark Center (not counting the purchase price differential).

So, the conservative Republican line is, let’s not cut the cost of government, but increase it to please constituents?

Must be. The House passed Gunn’s bill.

Take state Senator Dean Kirby from Brandon. He wants to give a new retail project in his area a $22 million tax break by making it seem like a tourism project.

Current law provides tax incentives for qualified tourism projects (resort hotels, theme parks, etc.), but prohibits giving incentives to projects “whose primary business is retail sales.” The Mississippi Development Authority under Governor Haley Barbour strongly opposed offering tax incentives to retail projects because they are market driven, not incentive driven.

Kirby’s ploy is to create a new type of tourism project called “cultural retail attractions.” These “attractions” would combine “destination shopping” with “cultural or historical interpretive elements specific to Mississippi.”

In this case the “cultural retail attraction” would be an already announced $50 million plus investment outlet mall in Pearl. To qualify as a tourism project the mall would simply create its own “cultural or historical interpretive elements” by either spending $1,000,000 on Mississippi art, memorabilia, signage, historical markers, audio/visual equipment used to showcase Mississippi artists, or making 1,250 square feet space available to the Mississippi Development Authority for 10 years.

Already existing retail attractions would not be eligible.

Spend a little, save a lot… corporate welfare at its best.

So, the conservative Republican line is, give unneeded corporate welfare to business?

Must be. The Senate passed Kirby’s bill.

Republicans control the House and Senate. So, are they all RINOs now?

>> Bill Crawford (crawfolk@gmail.com), syndicated columnist and a from Meridian, is a regular contributor to the Mississippi Business Journal.


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.


  1. Bill, those in elected office and many, far too many, in GOP party roles are no where near the same type Gold Water Republicans of the early days of the birth of today’s Mississippi GOP.
    When you ran for congress things were already changing and there were visible signs of GOP elected officials and party leaders who were in the game for their own self-serving purposes and not for the principles embodied in the party.
    You overlooked Speaker Gunn’s creation of yet another government job, one in the above $100.000 a year level, for an assistant. I would have thought he would become a prime example of less not more government and would put the interests of the state above his own. Obviously I was wrong.

  2. Susan Lunardini

    Recreational shopping is a definite designation for tourism. Check out Foley Alabama. The hotels that Outlet spawned are real and so are parking lots running over with out-of-state cars.

    I live in Madison County and I believe Speaker Gunn is my Representative. I work in the City of Jackson. Guess I am old-fashioned, but would really prefer having our State Legislators think of benefiting all citizens.

    Scatteringbstate offices is not economically sound nor user friendly.

  3. We will remember them all on Election day.

  4. Elaine Vechorik

    Why MS legislators combine government with business instead of creating free enterprise.
    BiPAC – pro business PAC that all MS Republicans want an A rating from. It’s political masquerading as industrial/business. Behind most of the business/government issues that Barbour people are so deeply involved with.

    They gave Chris Mcdaniel a B one year. They chose a simple procedural vote to add to their rankings as an important vote. Just so they could ding Chris. He didn’t vote wrong. He was absent

    Governor Bryant wasn’t their guy. But I guess he didn’t oppose them enough to justify opposing him. He had to allow Haley to pass a lot of crap.

    THAT explains Gov. Bryant — I wondered how he can be so conservative in the Barbour-controlled era of MS politics!

    BIPAC – Business Industry Political Action Committee

  5. You are correct — BIPEC is a sham

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