Minor – Barbour, Reagan’s disciple

More than a “shock and awe” budget as one writer described it, Gov. Haley Barbour’s controversial FY 2011 funding proposal to shrink and eliminate state government services very well could be a Reaganesque philosophical document Haley has always dreamed of.

First, you must remember that Haley Barbour is a disciple of Ronald Reagan, having once worked as legislative liaison for Reagan’s White House. Next, you need to remember that Reagan’s fundamental doctrine of governance was that government “is not the solution, but the problem.”

His hypothesis was to “starve the beast,” shrinking the size of government by choking off spending. If Barbour’s secret plan is to impose the same doctrine on the already bare-bones government services of this small state, then the state’s deep revenue downturn from the Great Recession has definitely played into his hands, making budget cuts by the governor necessary under state law.

It’s been said by some that the Barbour budget goes after the “sacred cows” in Mississippi’s state government. That’s ridiculous. Show me a “sacred cow” state service. The only sacred cow I can think of is in the state tax code, in particular the income tax. You could throw in the oil and gas severance tax that has been unchanged since 1944 and a few others.

Barbour’s budget doesn’t merely trim state services, it pulls up by root and branch a number of them. Eliminating 10 mental health facilities would obviously strike a devastating blow to our health care services. Cuts in the public education budget would do harm to even thousands more of our population.

No doubt about it: the 2010 legislative session is going to be a real donnybrook.

Bill Minor
The Neshoba Democrat