Skirmishes between the two chambers of the Legislature are sure to come even with both being in the R column, but the truth is few saw a fiscal battle brewing amongst friends.
Last weekend an elephant fight erupted between the Tate Reeves led Senate and the newly minted Republicans in the state House over a bond bill. What should seemingly be an easy debate since both sides claim to be fiscally sensitive, the two sides were some $280 million apart in their wish lists of items to be funded on the state’s credit card.
If there was still any question if Reeves could lead from the front, all doubts should be gone after this episode.
The House put forth a $400 million bond plan for items that perhaps have been on their radar for some time but, due to their not being in leadership until now, was never in consideration for funding. While some of the funds may have been for items the state could definitely utilize, the truth is it will be the items such as a sports complex in Rep. Mark Baker’s district that will draw headlines and criticism from conservatives and liberals alike.
To be blunt, the House bond plan was flawed and simply went too far, especially since the majority of the new majority ran on cutting budgets, reducing spending, and fiscal sanity even if it hurts a little, something their Democratic counterparts had not done well in the past under former Speaker McCoy’s “spend now, pray later” fiscal philosophy.
Yet it was the MS Tea Party F graded Republican Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and the Senate that would not budge from their $120 million bond plan leading the fiscal way. Reeves was quoted in the Clarion Ledger as saying, “At the end of the day (Saturday), we just weren’t willing to agree to the size of a bond bill that the House conferees would have required… and at some point, somebody’s got to stand up and say no. And that’s what exactly what I told the voters I would do last year.”
House Chairman Rep. Jeff Smith tried to hold out hope and may have jumped the Gunn a little (pun intended), even going as far as mentioning that perhaps Governor Phil Bryant would call a special session to address the bond bill. Reeves was adamant, essentially saying the time has past; it’s not going to come back up without concessions. Bryant and his team quickly backed away from the matter, noting there was no need for a special session unless the two sides agree.
What Republicans don’t want to get into is a trunk measuring contest, all the while giving the few donkeys left out there fodder to gain even an inch of traction. The bright lens of leadership is still squarely on these Rs and those pack animals are just waiting to pounce. But if they continue to scurry and scatter and not consider the perception of their actions especially in what should be easy fights, Republicans will be lumped into the Dumbo category just like their predecessors, tripping over their own ears and clumsily wandering around with no true north.
Thankfully, Reeves and the Senate held the line and didn’t fall for the trap, giving fiscal sanity a chance; it’s unfortunate that many of the Republicans in the House thought otherwise.