April 1, 2004
Off to the left, just at the horizon, is a bobbing little boat carrying, to date, a lone figure. If you look closely through a pair of good binoculars you might just make out the figure of State Rep. John Mayo, D-Clarksdale, as he tacks against the prevailing political winds by proposing to raise Mississippi's so-called sin taxes on tobacco, alcohol and casinos.
Mayo is either running way out front of his legislative colleagues in this 2004 session, or he's really out of touch. At this stage, it could be either.
Mayo, always a progressive thinker, experienced the sailing equivalent of dead calm the other day as he presented his new tax plan including a new bracket for higher income taxpayers to the House Ways and Means Committee. No wind in those sails, he was told.
So many candidates were elected last year on pledges of no new taxes that any kind of tax increase is doubtful this year. Gov. Haley Barbour was among those candidates and has said raising taxes is the enemy of controlling spending. Barbour has also said the state faces a budget shortfall of more than $700 million.
Looking off into the horizon, many observers see budget clouds gathering. Today, John Mayo is bobbing alone in the little boat, waving a warning flag.
Next year may bring different weather; the state's budget woes are not likely to simply sail off into the sunset.