We hope you enjoyed our first-ever ‘Mississippi PEP Turkey Award’ interactive email series the week of Thanksgiving. I certainly had fun putting the content together.
In case you missed it we put together 3 – and with a surprise twist added a fourth – examples of Mississippi elected officials trying to appear tough and no nonsense, but instead only managing to show themselves to be ambitious and opportunistic.
Below is a brief overview of each of our ‘finalists’:
Governor Phil Bryant–No Veto
In early September the governor said the state was way outside the bounds of responsible spending, saying, “general fund spending has increased 26 percent, five times the rate of inflation, the last four years. That kind of growth over such a short period of time is simply unsustainable.”
The problem is, well, Governor Bryant hasn’t vetoed a single spending bill. Who’s been governor over those past 4 years? Yep. He has.
The Mississippi Bond Commission–Adopts New Rules, Still Forces “Questionably Appropriate” Projects Onto Taxpayers
Let’s say you’re on the bond commission. You’re the last line of defense for taxpayers. The commission approves to issue state bonds and the ‘state’s credit card’ is charged. If these Bond Commission Members–Gov. Bryant, Treasurer Lynn Fitch, and AG Jim Hood–are so concerned about questionably appropriate projects, why are they approving 83-percent of them?
Elected officials who issue new rules to “show” they are “protecting the taxpayers”, but who don’t have the guts to protect the taxpayers when the meaningful votes are cast, are playing the worst kind of politics.
Don’t pass a rule to do what you should have already done as a member of the commission.
Mississippi State House Mangement Committee–Votes To Keep Contracts Secret, Then Caves.
Just recently, the House Management Committee voted 5-4 to keep the details of contracts entered into by the MS House of Representatives secret.
Specifically the language approved by the committee reads, “All contracts entered into by the House Management Committee shall be confidential and shall not be released to any person or entity, except as specifically directed by the House Management Committee only when the committee deems necessary for the execution of the contract.”
The firestorm that ensued was followed by a quick response on the following Monday from the Legislature’s lawyers and the State Attorney General saying that turkey won’t fly and the committee reversed course.
Auditor Stacey Pickering–2014: There Is No Misuse of Federal Money in Mississippi.
Auditor Stacey Pickering–2016: We Must Get A Handle On This Misuse of Federal Money in Mississippi.
So which is it Mr. Auditor?
If state agencies didn’t follow the federal rules as Pickering stated in his Hobnob speech, and as a result of not following federal rules state agency personnel has now endangered the financial stability of the state, then where has the state auditor been?
What happened? If, as Pickering wrote in 2014, Mississippi had developed a system for federal spending “that provides complete transparency on every dollar spent and prevents fraud” then why did that “successful” system fall apart under Pickering’s time in the Office of State Auditor?
And if, as Pickering wrote in 2014, 99.5-percent of “Katrina funds were rewarded without fraud” in Mississippi, then how come millions were redirected from aid to families and low income individuals, and from rebuilding homes; and instead
- redirected the federal money into rebuilding a larger port in Gulfport;
- toward increasing funds to engineering firms for fees to redesign and rebuild water and sewer infrastructure using numbers that were considered to be astronomically out of whack when they were introduced;
- toward building a statewide emergency responder radio system by Motorola that left the system inoperable and in need of $13 million more just to get it working; and
- redirection of these funds by a man in Haley Barbour who had been given unprecedented authority to transfer those funds away from their original purpose and toward corporate interest that he would, upon leaving office, sign up as new lobbyist clients?
If there was so little fraud and so much tranparency why has $30 million of Pickering’s estimated $104 million in federal claw-backs been uncovered in just the past couple of month, 11 years after the storm wiped out homes, businesses, and upended families lives?
And most importantly, for the taxpayers of this state and to those who voted him into office; since Pickering himself tells us his predecessor put in place a system to monitor state spending of federal money so successful that it received recognition as a “best practice,” then why has Pickering allowed such an important system to slide so badly during his time in office that the state now faces the potential loss of over $100 million.
There are likely many amenities and conveniences other state populations have that Mississippians don’t have access to. But, common sense isn’t one of those things we Mississippians are missing.
So, who is the winner of the Turkey Award this year?
- That would be the Mississippi Bond Commission.
- Second place goes to the House Management Committee
- Third place goes to Governor Bryant’s missing veto pen.
- And we complete the list of 4 finalists with a 2016 State Auditor Pickering that sounds completely different in his position than 2014 State Auditor Pickering did.
Thank you to the thousands of Mississippi PEP email subscribers who kept up with the series over the Thanksgiving week, and to those who voted.
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