Budget: Look past the current crisis

Gov. Haley Barbour is set to unveil his executive budget recommendation today for the next fiscal year that begins in July, 2010.

It is expected to be a budget for hard times that could be a precursor to harder times to come.

Barbour has been warning legislators and the public for months about the impact of revenue reductions. Revenue is down $111.7 million below estimates since the fiscal year began July 1. He already has had to trim the FY 2010 budget by 5 percent and agencies have been put on notice that more cuts are coming.

So, Mississippi fiscal leaders begin next year’s budget process with even more fear and uncertainty about the state economy.

The budget crisis should not be used as an excuse to advance political agendas. Legislative fiscal leaders must keep sight of the priorities of education and public health and safety and not leave the state crippled when the economy does improve. However, it should be an opportunity to overcome some of those political agendas and look at existing government structures that have hampered efficient government.

Budgets can be as much about long-term strategic planning as dollars and cents. Hopefully, Barbour’s budget recommendation today will be a starting point to that end and not just a slash-and-burn exercise.