Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sid Salter: Gunn To Lead House Resurgence?

It was back in April of this year at a Stennis Institute of Government’s Capitol Press Corps luncheon and the topic was finance proposals for the state’s neglected roads and bridges.

At the press luncheon, Gunn touted a House proposal commonly referred to as a “tax swap” that would have broadly paired state income tax cuts with state fuel tax increases over four years.

But Gunn’s House and the state Senate under the leadership of fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves were unable to agree on the House proposal this year, as the two chambers had been unable to agree on similar prior proposals.

A week prior to the April press luncheon, when Gunn and other House leaders unveiled the “tax swap” plan, Reeves was asked about his views on the proposal and told the media: “I am a Republican. I am a conservative. I am against raising gas taxes.”

Without making direct reference to Reeves’ earlier remarks, Gunn told the Stennis press luncheon crowd: “I am a conservative. I am a Republican. I am not for raising anybody’s taxes. But I don’t stop there. I’m for showing leadership and for solving a problem.

The House-Senate rift made headlines primarily last year over infrastructure and the politically associated online use tax issue, but those were certainly not the only issues.

This is not the first time in Mississippi history that there were visible tensions between the leaders of the House and Senate and most importantly between the rank-and-file members. And that was true when Democrats hold the same dominance in state government that Republicans enjoy today.

Such is the predictable process of the making of the legislative “sausage.”

The tenures of the late Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Dye and the late Democratic House Speaker C.B. “Buddie” Newman featured some of the same disagreements. And relationships between House and Senate conference committee members were often contentious.

Listening to Gunn speak to the Starkville Rotary Club this week, the degree of change in state government dictated by the 2019 elections was rather obvious in his remarks. To be sure, Gunn was a loyal Republican and there was zero talk of prior policy disagreements with Gunn’s fellow GOP officials.

Consider the state’s coming political landscape: At the end of this year, Mississippi will have elected a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state treasurer. We already have a state auditor and a state agriculture commissioner who are both still newly minted by relatively recent gubernatorial appointments who will be elected for terms of their own. The only veteran among our eight statewide elected officials who wants to return to his present post is the state insurance commissioner and he faces a Democratic opponent.

The 2019 election cycle will see significant legislative turnover based on Senate and House members either retiring or seeking other offices, including many key legislative leaders from the money committees in both chambers. Just over 21 percent of the Senate will turn over in this manner. At least nine percent of the House will be similarly impacted. Others simply got beat in the normal ebb and flow of politics.

During his Starkville speech, Gunn was unapologetic about his conservative principles. But it was evident from his remarks that he is mindful of the fact that state government is facing a significant realignment. Not necessarily from a partisan standpoint, but from having different people in different positions of authority.

There is a belief among many Capitol observers that Gunn and his House leadership team will reassert themselves in the chamber’s dealings with the Senate, the new statewide elected officials and the new legislators.

With the certainty of a new governor and a new lieutenant governor, Gunn will be the lone major player in the legislative process returning to a job where he enjoys significant experience. That advantage is not likely to be wasted on the thoughtful, affable lawmaker from Clinton.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

Wish he was on the ballot for Governor!

Anonymous said...

Speaker Gunn is one of our state's greatest political assets. We have problems that he is trying to solve and not simply ignore. Everyone wants better roads and bridges--well, that stuff costs money.

Anonymous said...

With all these young pups in charge you know theyse fixin to make some sausage and git-r-dun!!

Anonymous said...

I remember in the 1970s John Ed Ainsworth ran for land commissioner on the platform that he would serve his term then eliminate the job. He won and fulfilled his promise and eliminated the job. That is how we lessen this poor state’s debt., not by increasing taxes.

Anonymous said...

Other than the parts where Sid launches off into his usual political ramblings, this is a good article. I believe we can look for more of a 'problem solving' approach and attitude with Reeves out of the 'sausage making' of legislative interaction.

Taking Gunn at his word, I believe Hoseman will also be about 'problem solving' instead on simply being a hard-headed obstacle sitting in the road like a pouting-boulder.

And while I believe the term 'tax swap' is nothing but a mythical unicorn, I also know that this state has got to come up with a way to fund infrastructure improvements and ongoing maintenance. Hopefully Delbert and Gunn will figure it out and Reeves, as governor, will get the hell out of the way.

Anonymous said...

How blind are Mississippi voters that they can't see how an increase in fuel tax linked to a cut in personal income tax is a text book example of taking from all those actually working for a living and giving it to those who let their brokers work for them.

Anonymous said...

KF, I certainly hope that you do not pay for this.

Anonymous said...

To think that Mississippians 'who let their brokers work for them' are the least bit worried about current state income tax rates demonstrates how extremely little reactionary whiners like @9:35 understand about taxation.

Tax swaps are gimmicks.

Anonymous said...

9:46, your comments and those from others making similar comments, get VERY old. Did Sid steal your jr. high school girlfriend? Get over it. Just don't click when you see Sid's name! I appreciate KF running Sid's column and analysis, paid or not!

9:11, agreed on Gunn and Hosemann's abilities. But if Reeves is elected, you know he will still think he has the power of the Lt. Guv. The only way to get him out of the way is to not vote for him.

Anonymous said...

Most everybody pays a fuel tax. Only about 60% of us pay an income tax. How hard is that for you to understand, 9:35 a.m.?

Anonymous said...

Even if Taterbrat wins, having two statesmen over the House and Senate should easily have the votes to override the little Napoleon's vetoes.

Anonymous said...

I like the concept of abolishing state income tax & replace with enhanced use taxes where & if especially needed. There r just so very many places MS could cut expenses.
People talk about more money for education. MS spends entirely too much on educational administration. The community college concept is good, but there r entirely too many community colleges, especially branches. MS’s flag ship university enjoys a great national reputation attracting many out-of-state students. What a great industry for MS. This concept should be encouraged rather than penalizing. I can think of no better “industry” MS could grow. State’s vet school is terribly expensive to maintain. State should look ways to attract out-of-state students to help offset the expense. MS never needed S. MS. It probably should be phased out, but politics would not permit. There again, entirely too much educational administration. And, talk about politics, why in the world does MS need MSUW, too much educational administration! If only MS had some statesmen rather than so very many politicians. And, that leads me to the size of the legislature & it’s extended meeting time.
MSians say they want less, more conservative government: just let me b a big fish in my little pond.

Anonymous said...

Abolishing state income tax would be attractive for the millions of retirees. MS, a retirement haven has a good ring to it.

Anonymous said...

I can not think of anything that would be more advantageous for the growth of MS as going from an income tax state to an use tax state.

Anonymous said...

how many times will Tater's veto be overridden?

Anonymous said...

2:53...Retirees don't typically have an income other than retirement income and that's not taxed in this state.

What we need is an abolition of taxes on groceries. But, hell, it took this backwards-assed legislature eight years to finally exempt school supplies from tax free holidays when those days have always hit right at the beginning of school.

Anonymous said...

Do not like the gas tax and I do not like MDOT's policies. We should not have all these broken bridges if the Highway Commissioners did their jobs and MDOT could "get over itself" and expedite projects and perform maintenance of what we have. How many contractors have declared bankruptsy trying to satisfy MDOT and what kind of prices do contractors bid on MDOT projects compared to Alabama ones?

I am not opposed to use taxes vs. other taxes but this tax is one I am opposed to.

Anonymous said...

@9:35 that you AOC? Boy howdy.

Anonymous said...

5:10 PM, about as many times as there are Senators who won't want to stay on Tate's good side. Delbert, as good as he may be, has the calendar working against him and will have a problem rallying his chamber to override a veto form someone who's going to be around for a long time. Senators like the notion of being reelected more than they dislike the notion of being vetoed.

Anonymous said...

The only way we'd see Tater's veto over-ridden would be if there were a democrat super-majority, which there won't be.

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