House Democratic Caucus Leader Bobby Moak (Bogue Chitto) addressed members of the Mississippi Economic Council at the group’s Capital Day.
During his speech, Moak addressed several topics that are likely to be taken up by legislators during the 2012 legislative session including the Attorney General’s use of independent counsel, wildlife funding, and local and private taxation.
Moak noted that the Attorney General’s office has recovered $500 million in taxpayer funds at not cost to Mississippians. Moak also pointed out that several of these current lawsuits involve alleged securities violations that have depleted the PERS fund. “Just one of those cases is estimated to have cost PERS $45 million,” Moak said. With respect to efforts to restrict the Attorney General from pursuing civil claims on behalf of the state, Moak said, “I don’t know what the endgame is with respect to legislation targeting the Attorney General’s office nor do I know why in the world we wouldn’t all want a strong Attorney General but I can tell you that I have no appetite for playing political games that cost taxpayers millions. PERS will be a big topic of discussion this year and it would look pretty disingenuous of us to assure state employees that we’re doing all we can to keep their retirement program solvent while not working to recover money that should rightfully be a part of the program.”
Noting Governor Barbour’s proposed 24% cut to the Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks budget, Moak said, “We all know where this is headed. Every dime that we take out of wildlife will have to be made up in taxes and fees on sportsmen. Levying fees on things like gun ownership and reducing the number of wildlife-related jobs is bad policy.” Moak added, “Even in a tough economy, wildlife-related recreation is producing jobs for thousands of Mississippians. According to Mississippi State University’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center, outdoor activities create more than 66,000 full and part-time jobs that pay more than $1.15 billion in wages and salaries per year. This study also showed that wildlife recreation contributes $2.8 billion to our state economy each year.”
Moak also acknowledged that it may be time to re-think the way the Legislature approves local and private taxes. Moak said, “Mississippi taxpayers have been saddled with a lot of needless taxes thanks to bills passed by our local and private committees. There are taxes that were instituted twenty years ago for baseball fields and parks that were completed years ago. And that’s just one example among many of taxes that we need to re-think.” Moak added, “If we are going to get serious about budgeting and taxes, we have to look critically at all of our practices. We can’t rubber stamp a tax at the local level that would never pass at the state level.”
[House Democratic Caucus Press Release]