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Musgrove attempting to save face

By Staff
July 18, 2001
Has Mississippi made a hollow promise to our teachers about raising teacher pay to the Southeastern average? Certainly.
Was the so-called "5-percent revenue growth trigger" an impediment to keeping that promise? Absolutely.
But after Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Tim Ford made a public commitment earlier this month to remove the "trigger" during an expected August special legislative session originally set for congressional redistricting, was it necessary that Gov. Ronnie Musgrove set a single-issue, $47,460 one-day special session to deal with the issue? Of course not.
So why did he do it? Musgrove said in his Sunday column that the issue was "important enough to merit our immediate attention."
Musgrove also claimed: "We have teachers who are debating their futures and whether or not their future will be in Mississippi. By acting now, we can help them reach a decision and welcome them back to the classrooms in the fall."
Pardon me while I wipe the tears, Governor. That was a performance of Shakespearian force and power.
It was also a huge load of prime malarkey Mississippi style.
Would Musgrove really have the taxpayers of Mississippi believe that a few weeks to a month would make any difference in how the Legislature dealt with the "trigger" issue after Tuck and Ford stated their support?
Contracts already signed
Teachers who will be honest and that's 99.9 percent of them will tell you that the preponderance of teachers who have any intention whatsoever of teaching in Mississippi this fall have already signed contracts with their respective school districts. They have indeed made their decisions about their futures at least for the coming year.
The timing of the now-July 23 special session will have diddly-squat to do with whether teachers are "welcomed back to the classrooms" this fall. Musgrove knows it. The Legislature knows it. The teacher unions know it.
As a matter of fact, only Gov. Musgrove and teachers loyal to the American Federation of Teachers union are making any noise about the notion of timing having anything to do with it.
One can't criticize the AFT for wanting quick action on their pet issue and for promising Musgrove the political credibility he's desperate to achieve in the wake of his long, hot summer of personal and political turmoil.
Likewise, one can't really fault Musgrove for attempting to change the political subject to any subject other than divorce, the implosion of the Mississippi Democratic Party he heads or the departure of most of his key staffers.
Raising private money?
But that's not the most laughable performance from Governor Gomer regarding the special session. No, that came when Musgrove offered to raise private dollars to fund the special session.
First, it's not legal or ethical.
Second, if Musgrove has private backers ready to fund the legitimate interworkings of state government, then perhaps he should cut out the middle-man and raise funds sufficient to offset the revenue shortfalls that are plaguing state government at all levels.
Third, it was a rhetorical offer designed to shame the Legislature. Score another one for the ongoing feud between Musgrove and the lawmakers.
Make no mistake about it. The single-issue special session wasn't necessary and in slating it Musgrove chose his own political fortunes over being fiscally responsible. Given those fortunes of late, perhaps that's forgivable.
Sid Salter is Perspective Editor/Columnist at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson and a syndicated Mississippi political columnist. Call him at 601-961-7084, write P.O. Box 40, Jackson, MS 39206, or e-mail to ssalter@jackson.gannett.com.

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