Yesterday, Mississippi House Republicans sent an open letter to House Speaker Billy McCoy reiterating their wishes for budget recommendations in the House. As most remember, McCoy narrowly avoided defeat as Speaker in 2008 after tying two ballots at 61-61 before finally winning the third ballot with one switchover. Since then, McCoy has been recalcitrant and not allowed House Republicans any say or participation in the running of the Mississippi House. In contrast, Lt. Governor Phil Bryant has shown a conciliatory approach on the Senate side incorporating Democrats and Republicans to key committee chair assignments and leadership positions.

The letter to the Speaker is noteworthy, and other than Representative Greg Snowden’s Blog, this may be the only place you will see it.

With maybe the toughest budget year ever, McCoy is setting himself and his leadership up to “go down with the ship”. By avoiding any inclusion of Republicans, the fallout and consequences of House action becomes his and his alone. Based on what I am hearing on both sides of the aisle, this session is shaping up to be one of the toughest that even the most seasoned in the State Capitol have ever experienced.

December 17, 2009

The Honorable William J. “Billy” McCoy
Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives
Post Office Box 1018
Jackson, Mississippi 39215

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Tuesday, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee released its legislative budget recommendations for FY 2011. Inasmuch as no House Republican has a seat on this committee, we believe that it is important to reiterate the principles of House Republicans as they relate to the adoption of an FY 2011 state budget.

The Mississippi House Republican Conference seeks a budget that encourages job creation, prudently spends from the Rainy Day Fund, does not depend on one-time monies for recurring expenditures or raid special funds, and cuts the size of government.

Because we believe that job retention and creation is the most urgent need in Mississippi, we pledge our support to policies that encourage entrepreneurship and job growth and oppose legislation that will shoulder our state – or employers – with new governmental mandates and taxes. Mississippi workers, not Mississippi’s government, will provide the exodus from this recession. We should empower them with opportunity, not burden them with restrictions.

We believe Mississippi must prudently use the Rainy Day Fund to ensure financial resources for another three years. Mississippi will continue to see revenue shortfalls, so we will oppose any attempt to excessively drain this fund. Not preserving this fund for the next three fiscal years is short-sighted and irresponsible. We will not support a policy that lets us feast today, but starves us tomorrow.

The Legislature has a responsibility to Mississippi and her taxpayers not to create a budget based on one-time or time-limited funds. We need a reasonable, long-term, sustainable budget. Living beyond our means on one-time money would be irresponsible and only make things more difficult when the money runs out.

Likewise, the Legislature entrusts special fund agencies with a responsibility to manage taxpayer dollars prudently. These taxpayer funded agencies should be operated responsibly and transparently, and should not be penalized by the Legislature for doing so. We will oppose efforts to raid special fund balances.

We must right-size state government to root out inefficiencies and serve our citizens better. Mississippi families are making cuts; Mississippi’s government should make cuts, too. One way to do this is to allow government officials greater flexibility to streamline their operations. For too long we have tied the hands of our state managers and prevented their ability to save taxpayer dollars. The Mississippi House Republican Conference will support such policies that promote smarter, agile, adaptable and more efficient government.

Finally, raising taxes during these difficult economic times is the wrong approach and one that we will ardently oppose. As a general policy, we will also oppose attempts to increase fees (“hidden taxes”) on our citizens. We should not try to prop up our state budget by making taxpayers cough up more of their hard-earned dollars; instead, state government should learn to live within its means.

By adhering to these budget principles we will usher in a more efficient government that promotes job growth and paves the way for our state’s economic prosperity.

Sincerely,

MISSISSIPPI HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE

Rep. Mark Baker, District 74
Rep. Philip Gunn, District 56
Rep. Mark Formby, District 108
Rep. John Moore, District 60
Rep. Bill Denny, District 64
Rep. Jessica Sibley Upshaw, District 95
Rep. Sam C. Mims, V, District 97
Rep. Jim Ellington, District 73
Rep. Bubba Carpenter, District 1
Rep. E. Forrest Hamilton, District 6
Rep. Wanda Jennings, District 7
Rep. Larry J. Baker, District 8
Rep. Noal Akins, District 12
Rep. Mac Huddleston, District 15
Rep. Brian Aldridge, District 17
Rep. Jerry Turner, District 18
Rep. Jim Beckett, District 23
Rep. Sidney W. Bondurant, District 24
Rep. Dannie Reed, District 35
Rep. Gary Chism, District 37
Rep. Ted Mahall, District 40
Rep. Bobby B. Howell, District 46
Rep. Tommy Woods, District 52
Rep. Alex Monsour, District 54
Rep. Rita Martinson, District 58
Rep. Kevin McGee, District 59
Rep. Ray Rogers, District 61
Rep. Tom Weathersby, District 62
Rep. Andy Gipson, District 77
Rep. Billy R. Nicholson, District 78
Rep. Steve Horne, District 81
Rep. Greg Snowden, District 83
Rep. Tad Campbell, District 84
Rep. Gary V. Staples, District 88
Rep. Becky Currie, District 92
Rep. Bill Pigott, District 99
Rep. Ken Morgan, District 100
Rep. Harvey Fillingane, District 101
Rep. Toby Barker, District 102
Rep. Larry Byrd, District 104
Rep. Herb Frierson, District 106
Rep. Frank Hamilton, District 109
Rep. John Read, District 112
Rep. Hank Zuber, District 113
Rep. Jeff Guice, District 114
Rep. Steven V. Palazzo, District 116
Rep. Roger Ishee, District 118
Rep. Richard Bennett, District 120

UPDATE – Lt. Governor Phil Bryant’s response . . .

Rep. Mark C. Baker
P.O. Box 947
Brandon, MS 39043-0947

Dear Rep. Baker:

I commend the members of the Mississippi House Republican Conference for their
commitment to the fight to build a conservative, balanced budget for FY 2011. I share your
goals, and I look forward to working with the members of the Conference and Governor Barbour
to pass a budget that uses real numbers, maintains the integrity of the Rainy Day Fund, and
encourages innovation and job creation in the private sector.

In addition to creating a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, we must change how the
state does day-to-day business and achieve a right sized government doing the right things. For
those reasons, I hope that the Conference members will share with me their specific
recommendations for reforms to accomplish those goals.

As a crucial part of that effort, I encourage the Conference to endorse the budget reforms
recommended by the Commission for a New Mississippi to make state government mission
driven and goal oriented. Those reforms will create a strategic plan to establish long-term goals
for Mississippi, reform performance-based budgeting to match agency budgets to the
achievement of those strategic goals, and combine the staffs of PEER and LBO to form an
oversight agency that will bring real accountability to budgeting and spending the taxpayers’
dollars.

By continuing to work together to enact a realistic budget and adopt strategic government
reforms, we can lead Mississippi through these tough economic times and prepare for a brighter
future.

Sincerely,
Phil Bryant
Lt. Governor