If you believed the Mississippi state legislature would demonstrate more competence this year than it did in last year’s regular session, abandon hope.
State legislature’s collective failure profits members, harms taxpayers
It appears that the distinguished members of the state senate and house of representatives will again fail to do their jobs in the 90 days the law allows for a regular legislative session. They have run out of time, and have left three high-priority appropriations unresolved. Bills to fund the Attorney General’s office, the Mississippi Department of Transportation , and the state aid program for county roads have not been completed.
Even more infuriating is the fact that each member of the legislature may personally profit because of their collective failure.
The members of each house must vote by a two-thirds majority to extend the session, or the governor will have to call a special session so these geniuses can finish their work before the state’s next fiscal year starts July 1st. Either way, the taxpayers lose.
Leadership failure, again
Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant-Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn — all members of the same political party — have again failed to lead.
We have long since stopped expecting any constructive leadership from Bryant. Reeves and Gunn, enthusiastically but not necessarily wisely, appeared to have seized the reins of state government in 2016, and seemed to be big buddies. Apparently, though, they have now had a falling out and are suffering “a failure to communicate” in 2017.
Appropriations to ensure safe and adequate roads and highways are the major impasse. The federal government recently closed 100 unsafe bridges across Mississippi. State highways and county roads have crumbled and become dangerous.
Northern District Highway Commissioner, Mike Tagert, said last month that deteriorated roads contributed to many of the 677 highway deaths in Mississippi last year. Road safety risks have increased further during the current year. Nobody denies that the problem is huge, but Reeves, the presiding officer of the state senate, and Gunn, the house speaker, have failed to put together a deal to fix the problem.
How to profit from failure
Members of the legislature are paid $10,000 for the regular 90-day session and $1,500 a month when the legislature is not in session. Thus, their regular pay should come to $23,500 a year.
However, each member of the legislature is also paid 54 cents a mile for travel and a $140 per diem for each day they spend in the state capital. That’s right: when our legislators fail to do their work in the 90 days allowed for a regular session, they fatten their own pay, because they are paid for driving more miles and spending more time enjoying the exotic thrills and culture of Jackson.
Our own legislators, regardless of party or competence, are among the state’s most expensive
Our state representative, Margaret Ellis Rogers, age 68, is serving her fourth term as representative of State House District 14. She was first elected as a Democrat in 2003, but signed on with the Republican Party in 2011.
Rogers is the sixth highest paid member of the state house of representatives. According to the state auditor’s office, Rogers was paid a total of $57,354 during the year from April 2015 to April 2016. She does not serve as chairman of any major committee, yet earned more than 116 of the 122 members of the lower house. How did that happen? Lots of driving and a lot of time in Jackson? We would love to hear her explanation.
Our state senator, a guy named Nickey Browning, will be 66 years old July 19th. Browning is now serving his sixth term in the legislature, having been elected as a Democrat in 1995. He switched to the Republican Party in 2013. To our knowledge Browning has never set the woods afire as a statesman. He, like Rogers, does not serve as chairman of any major committee.
Yet he is the highest paid member of the state senate! Mississippi taxpayers paid Browning $59,852 for the year, April 2015 to April 2016. Every single one of the other 51 members of the state senate were paid less. How did Browning get the top money? We are very curious to hear his version of that story.
Democrat or Republican, it makes no difference. Mediocrity knows no party affiliation and is always expensive.
For details of state highway and roads’ issues: http://nanewsweb.com/mdot-transportation-funding-public-safety-issue/
More about MS’s state leadership failures:$57 million short-fall in 2017 budget attributed to staff error and Transparency? All we can see is a “right mess” in state finances.