Wide partisan divide hurting Mississippi

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 17, 2005

This year, lawmakers in Jackson have had time to meet celebrities like B.B. King and Faith Hill; criticize the offer of $50 million for education funding from Jim Barksdale; and name a state reptile.

Here’s what they apparently haven’t had time for: approving a budget in a timely manner, just about the most important thing we really need them to do in their three-month regular sessions each year.

By the time you read this, we may or may not have a state budget.

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If not, lawmakers will either extend the session or have to come back in special session to approve a new budget before the fiscal year begins on July 1.

Longtime lawmakers have said they can’t remember a time when the Mississippi Legislature adjourned without passing a budget.

What we’re wondering is whether that threat will become a regular occurrence.

Perhaps this is one of the growing pains we have to experience as formerly &uot;solid South&uot; Mississippi continues its transition to a two-party system. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that both the state House and Senate were controlled by Democrats, and a Democrat was almost always in the governor’s mansion.

Still, must the partisan divides be so wide that no compromise can be reached, even after three months of wrangling over the budget? Two parties are good; compete disagreement with no hope for a solution is not.

It is irresponsible of both houses and both parties not to be able to come to an agreement within the regular session, requiring more money to pay for extra days or even a special session.

It’s time to get over the growing pains and come to the table like adults.