One of the basic precepts of the American form of government is that the legislative branch controls the purse strings.
That is what Republican Gov. Haley Barbour successfully argued when he blocked funds from the settlement of the state’s lawsuit against the tobacco companies from being diverted to the private, nonprofit Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.
Barbour’s attorneys successfully argued before the state Supreme Court that it was unconstitutional for the Partnership to receive payments from the lawsuit settlement funds because they had not been appropriated by the Legislature.
Now the issue of whether the Legislature has the duty to appropriate funds has come up again. But in this case the funds are designated for Mississippi as part of the massive federal stimulus package.
Mississippi is set to receive at least $2.3 billion in federal funds. In most cases, the governor must request the funds or the Legislature by majority vote can override the governor and accept them.