Monday, December 23, 2013

Senate Conservative Coalition Opposes: Will of the Voters

Sen. Michael Watson
Last week, elected officials from Pascagoula gathered to discuss legislative goals for the upcoming session. Like many cities, Pascagoula needs additional revenue to improving its aging infrastructure and other purposes. 

At this meeting, another ideological fracture surfaced between the Tea Party-aligned Senate Conservative Coalition and their Republican colleagues who probably feel uncomfortable being associated with them. In this instance, state Sen. Michael Watson (R-Pascagoula) expressed his "not gonna do it" attitude towards allowing for a vote on the issue of additional funding for infrastructure repairs and other purposes. Watson said the city council could approve a property tax increase to fund the projects "if it's important enough." No confirmation has been provided about what Watson considers important enough.

His colleague, state Sen. Brice Wiggins (R-Pascagoula), took a different approach by suggesting he was keeping an open mind when it came to the idea of a city-wide vote on a tax increase.

Sen. Brice Wiggins
The Tea Party goes (more) berserk at the hint of a tax increase by any level of government. When given an option of allowing a popular vote to render a judgement, Watson is not warm to the idea of voters approving the tax. Moreover, he is fine with Pascagoula's city council approving a property tax increase. It suggests Watson has more faith in the city council than he does the will of the voters.

Wiggins's idea mirrors that of cities like Brandon, which recently passed a referendum allowing for higher taxes in order to pay for improved recreational services: if the voters understand what the tax is designed to do and the voters approve it, there should be no confusion and everyone can go about his or her business.

With the Legislature just a couple of weeks from reconvening, I suspect Lt. Governor Reeves will have a few quiet corners of the Capitol picked out where he will put Watson in time out for most of the session.

Read Watson's Lips: It Wouldn't Be Prudent

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