PERRY/Reeves threw a tea party
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 1:00 PM
The stereotypical Tea Party Republican has certain flair: loud, angry, rambunctious, revolutionary. I say "stereotypical" because that does not encompass all Tea Party Republicans or those who adhere to the same principles but employ a different style and tactics.
A Republican elected official in Mississippi announcing a balanced budget and a full Rainy Day Fund, who has opposed and even thwarted massive bonding indebtedness, and who champions the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, protecting Mississippian's guns rights (including a sales tax holiday on firearms and ammunition), enacting a moratorium on state vehicle purchases and prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks fits right into the Tea Party principles. "God Bless that champion of liberty," they might say.
Meanwhile a Republican elected official announcing $80 million in transportation infrastructure repairs and university renovations; an increase in spending to state universities; a teacher pay-raise; and increased funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program might be received by the same people with skepticism. "Sounds like a RINO to me," might be their thought.
Imagine if it were the same person. It is.
Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves does not fit into the stereotypical Tea Party mode. I doubt he would characterize himself as a Tea Party Republican. Tea Party leaders certainly view him more as an "establishment" Republican. But when it comes to principles - specifically the fiscal responsibility at the core of the Tea Party's creation - you would be hard pressed to identify someone who has won more fiscal responsibility battles among recent Republican policy makers.
Now if you want to create a purity litmus test that includes opposing every bond bill; advocates cutting spending in every part of government and returning those cuts to taxpayers then neither Reeves nor no one else meets that standard.
But in a move which should have been applauded by Tea Party Republicans, but instead ignited widespread attacks by Reeves opponents, in his first year as lieutenant governor he stood by his principles and the legislature adjourned without its major bond bill. The Republican House sought more than $280 million in bonds; Reeves wanted to cut that by more than half. There wasn't a lot of compromise available and when the House did not or could not meet his threshold, he walked away. Citizens were told the sky would fall. He was called a dictator. But he stood on principle to advance a fiscal conservative policy - and unlike failing tactics used by national Tea Party leaders - he won. It was also a very "Reagan moment." Afterward opponents knew Reeves was not bluffing. And he provided quite a contrast in his first year as lieutenant governor to the year prior when a Republican Senate and Democratic House passed more than $400 million in debt in one bond bill.
Reeves continues to promote a policy that the state should not issue more new debt than it pays off yearly. And he believes the state should not spend one-time money on recurring expenses. This week he issued a press release on the 2015 state fiscal year which began on Tuesday. He said this would be the first time in more than a decade that the state government will fund recurring expenses only with recurring revenues while also filling the state's Rainy Day Fund to its statutory limit of $409 million.
Reeves said in the release, "State government is finally doing what taxpayers do every day in their homes and businesses: spending what it takes in, prioritizing needs and saving money for a rainy day. By saving, the state can be prepared for a down economy like we saw in Fiscal Year 2010 when the budget was slashed several times during the year because of the Great Recession. With President Obama's continued mishandling of the economy, states need to be prepared to deal with any slowdowns in the economy and potential revenue dips."
As to the state vehicle purchase moratorium he says, "I will not stop looking through state agency purchases and ending wasteful spending. Reinstating this moratorium can save taxpayers even more money and lets agency bureaucrats know we are serious about getting government spending under control."
Now Mississippi is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget; but the budget can be deemed balanced using any number of accounting and deficit appropriation maneuvers. Reeves seeks a truly balanced budget and in the process, takes a shot at President Barack Obama. Add to that cutting spending and a swipe at government bureaucrats. How much more Tea Party can he get?
I'm not trying to convince anyone that Reeves is a Tea Party champion. He wouldn't believe it; the Tea Party wouldn't believe it; I wouldn't believe it. But his consistent fiscal policy is exactly what the Tea Party ought to be celebrating. It is conservative policy and it is successful politics.
Brian Perry is a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.