Clarion Ledger: Our view: ‘Political theater’ was responsible, too

Simply put: People in a political fight use whatever tools they have at their disposal to win. Frierson did just that last week. He sent a not-so-subtle message to agency heads and, therefore, state employees that if Initiative 42 passes, their budgets will be cut, which could cost jobs and services.

To be fair, Initiative 42 does allow for full funding to be phased in over multiple years. In that instance, a 7.8 percent cut would not be necessary. However, as Frierson pointed out, the ultimate decision would be left to a judge. For his part, Frierson said he would argue for full funding immediately because that would be the ultimate will of the people. Such a move seems fiscally irresponsible, given that a phase in would be allowed.

Still, while this was clearly political theater, it doesn’t mean it was only political theater. Frierson would be an absolute fool not to prepare for a worst-case scenario, especially one that could plausibly come to fruition by this next session.

His calling for agency heads to prepare an emergency budget solution in case of a 7.8 percent cut is him being a responsible chairman. The alternative would be disastrous: to sit idly by and risk a reality in which voters approve the amendment and a judge orders full funding of MAEP starting with the 2016 fiscal year. Frierson and his fellow legislative leaders would then scramble halfway through a legislative session to come up with a workable budget plan. Their political opponents would label them feckless, and such an assertion would be accurate.