Speaker's missive aimed at Musgrove
By By Buddy Bynum/The Meridian Star
June 26, 2001
In an aggressive defense of his branch of state government, House Speaker Tim Ford is turning up the heat on Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
In a letter to his colleagues, the Speaker charged that Musgrove "misrepresented" legislative actions, leveled "unfair" criticisms and withheld pertinent facts on at least three major issues in the public eye since lawmakers adjourned in January.
Ford's bluntly-written two-page letter was a broadsides against Musgrove's criticism of legislative action on teacher pay, prison funding and projected economic growth. Political observers say it also signals a very public break with Musgrove that could carry over not only into the 2002 legislative session but also through the remaining years of Musgrove's term.
A spokesman for Musgrove had no immediate comment Monday.
In the areas of projected revenue growth, funding for prisons and teacher pay, Ford said, "Statements by him (Musgrove) with regard to all of these issues have not offered the public all of the pertinent facts."
Last year the Legislature passed a plan to increase teachers salaries to the Southeastern average. The law provided that the annual increases would be automatic if general fund revenue estimated for the succeeding fiscal year reflected at least 5 percent growth.
When the Legislature approved funding for housing some state inmates at regional and private correctional facilities, it did so with a condition that funds would be spent only if necessary.
A PEER Committee report, completed after the legislative session ended, found that costs at such facilities "could be lowered substantially," Ford wrote, "allowing us to avoid costs we initially expected.
Ford said both Musgrove and the Legislature had adopted a projected growth rate of 3.7 percent for fiscal year 2002. But by the close of the 2001 session, the governor was advocating reducing the growth rate to 1 percent.
Ford said the Legislature had acknowledged that revenue could fall short by about $225 million and that growth could be less than 3.7 percent. The Legislature "felt the prudent approach" was to stay with the earlier estimate and to allow $123 million in existing budget safety nets to do their intended job.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.