EDITORIAL/Troopers never saw the money
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 1:00 AM
Lawmakers believe they've allocated nearly $2 million to replace an aging fleet of Highway Patrol cars, but instead the Department of Public Safety has spent $500,000 on SUVs, bought 14 motorcycles and granted more than 300 pay raises with a separate chunk of change meant to plug a deficit, it's revealed.
Sounds like a bunch of liberal Democrats in flush times.
Unfortunately, it's a true story that played out last week under Republican leadership, a case in point for more legislative oversight of state spending, why bureaucrats and government in general can't be fully trusted, even under the GOP.
The revelations have angered Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn, and that's a good thing, but DPS should serve as a warning to all people who call themselves conservatives: Beware of government.
During budget hearings last week, Reeves and Gunn grew even more frustrated when DPS officials could not explain why they want an additional $36 million next year.
Give government bureaucrats an inch and they'll take a mile.
Stopping big government is a tall order. Ronald Reagan never accomplished it on a federal level, but he had a Democratic Congress.
George Bush and Republican Congresses actually grew government enormously.
The state of Mississippi is required by law to balance its budget, unlike the $17 trillion debt the federal government is ringing up.
Reeves wisely blocked the Highway Patrol from borrowing money two years ago to buy the cars for troopers, telling them in essence to get by like most Mississippians have been.
This year, lawmakers allocated nearly
$2 million for cars and $3 million to cover a budget shortfall, or so they thought.
But the Department of Public Safety bought the SUVs that will go to higher-ups like Reeves, according to Geoff Pender of The Clarion-Ledger, along with the Harleys while granting the pay raises.
Troopers on the road never saw the money, despite the good intentions of GOP lawmakers.
Again, a warning to conservatives about good intentions of government.
The 14-member Joint Legislative Budget Committee met last Monday through Thursday to hear funding requests from 30 state agencies in what is expected to be about a $6 billion state budget.
State revenues have increased 5 percent for each of the past two years, but the state economist warned last week about any new gains.
Predictably, only a few agencies are requesting budget decreases. Many agencies are requesting less than a 5 percent increase, while some are seeking 20 to 25 percent more.
The Department of Revenue, saying it can't keep up with calls from taxpayers, requested a 66 percent budget increase, which lawmakers seemed to indicate the agency justified with data, unlike the ill-prepared DPS.
The state Department of Education is requesting a budget of $2.7 billion, an increase of more than $300 million. How much of that will actually get to the classroom?
Thirty Mississippi schools are in serious danger of failing and could be taken over by the state.
While most of the budget proposals were "somewhat reasonable and somewhat rational in size," as Reeves observed, think about those Highway Patrol cars, SUVs, motorcycles and pay raises.
Considering DPS's September Highway Patrol Robbery Surprise, the more legislative oversight and review for all agencies, the better.