Lawmakers must be stewards of state budget

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2001

So now it’s official. Mississippi’s tax collections in May fell $43.7 million short of experts’ predictions.

And, according to the state treasurer, we could end the fiscal year some $200 million behind budget estimates. That’s a considerable chunk of our budget, especially when you consider the state’s general fund budget is $3.6 billion.

The shortfall is not good news, but the question of just how much that shortfall will ultimately impact our state’s budget remains to be answered. We’ve heard debate about it for months.

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Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and the Legislature battled long and hard over the state budget, with the governor pushing for more restraint in spending and the lawmakers overriding his vetoes to pass a budget they based on optimistic projections.

Now, if the governor can restrain himself from taking an ‘I-told-you-so’ stance, he has a chance to prod those lawmakers into revisiting the budget and spending, if not this year at least in the next fiscal year budgeting session.

While we’re all hopeful that the state’s economy will take a positive turn, the reality is we must budget realistically. And, in Mississippi’s case, realistically also means conservatively.

We cannot afford to spend ourselves into debt, nor should we have to face the crisis that comes when the state runs out of money before the end of the fiscal year. Whether that will happen with this budget remains to be seen.

Ultimately, though, we must be able to trust our lawmakers and elected officials to be judicious stewards of our tax revenues and our state’s financial resources.