Editorial: Political Bait and Switch

When it comes to switching funds originally represented to be for one thing to another, Mississippi politicos are absolute champions. 

Those who are old enough may remember that when counties were given the right to vote in hard liquor, the state was to be the distributor, and all that profit and tax money would go to fund education. It didn’t.

Instead, the whiskey money flowed into the coffers of the general fund to be used as the politicians saw fit. There have been other instance, but let’s fast forward to more recent times. 

When then Attorney General Mike Moore and his legion of lawyers made Mississippi the first state to sue big tobacco and win billions of dollars their premise was based on the fact that it was costing the state untold amounts of money to treat various tobacco-related illnesses. 

That’s the argument they used to win. Then the legislature got its hands on the money and decided to first spend it on an advertising campaign aimed at keeping young people from starting the habit. To be fair, studies showed that it was most likely showing signs of success. Then Governor Barbour got in a battle to use it for other purposes. 
He and his backers won, and you guessed it, a big chunk of the money went into the general fund.  Now, special sessions of the legislature that cost even more taxpayer dollars keep being called to rescue Medicaid which is facing a $90 million shortfall.
While the tobacco settlement money wouldn’t take care of it all, it could certainly be part of the solution. But many are fighting it from being used for the purpose stated in the original lawsuit. 
It’s not illegal, but the phrase bait and switch does come to mind. 
I’m Jim Cameron; let us know what you think.
Contact Jim Cameron at jcameron@wdam.com