Special session call a political power play

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Despite what Gov. Ronnie Musgrove says, we wonder if his hastily called legislative session really is all about the teachers.

The governor on Friday called a special session of the Mississippi Legislature for July 18 with the specific purpose of erase restrictions on a teacher pay-raise plan.

While endorsed by teachers, whose multi-million pay package is currently tied to a minimum of 5 percent budget growth in the state, the special session call has outraged lawmakers. On Monday, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Tim Ford jointly called on the governor to reschedule the July 18 session. They cited the cost – $30,000 per day; the timing, some 40 lawmakers (including the lieutenant governor) are scheduled to attend a regional conference that day; and the opportunity to be more efficient by combining the pay raise issue with the special session Musgrove will call later this fall to address redistricting issues.

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The governor didn’t directly respond to the request, instead offering a statement in which he vowed to &uot;personally … raise the funds&uot; to reimburse the state for the cost of the special session.

But it’s not simply about the cost. Or about the teachers’ pay. At issue is something much larger … politics.

While we believe Mississippi’s teachers deserve a pay raise, we don’t think the governor should be using this highly charged issue to make his political power play. But that’s just what seems to be happening. Musgrove is flexing his gubernatorial muscle, flaunting it in the face of the lawmakers and the taxpayers and, all the while, reminding us that he’s doing it all for the teachers.

Yes, the teachers are likely to benefit, and deservedly so.

But the state’s voters and taxpayers will suffer from the political fallout.