Don’t get in the saddle just yet

Published 11:08 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is the federal stimulus money poised to pour into state coffers a gift horse or a Trojan horse?

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour says state leaders would be wise to approach the funds with great caution for fear that touching it may “unleash burdensome federal mandates.”

Mississippi House Speaker Billy McCoy, a Democrat, believes the state is foolish for not gobbling up any funds the federal government offers.

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Barbour is right to urge caution. He along with several other governors have held up their hands and said, essentially, “we’d like to read the fine print” before accepting the federal welfare checks. That’s smart.

The Legislature would be wise to follow Barbour’s horse sense. Rather than blindly jumping into the stimulus saddle and using it as a stopgap, “pay day” loan for the short-run, why not make real change in Jackson?

Lawmakers could make a real difference if they committed to work together to get our state’s financial situation in order.

What we fear, however, is that the federal hay will provide enough financial sustenance to prevent the state’s leaders from being forced to make expense reductions because of cash shortages.

Instead, Mississippi will likely become comfortable with the free money and use the opportunity to put off the spending reforms that are critically needs — in the current fiscal climate and well beyond.

All horses should be treated with respect and given a wide berth until you know their true nature. Cowboy Haley knows that simple lesson. Hopefully, the Legislature will follow his lead so taxpayers don’t get bucked.