Haley Barbour: The Economic Record

On February 24, 2011, in General, by Neil Stevens

Haley Barbour’s been taking some criticism lately, which to me is a sign of how seriously people are taking his rumored Presidential aspirations, with reports indicating that he’s running until he says he’s not. I was able to meet the Governor at CPAC and I’m certainly taking seriously his budding candidacy. I’d like to see him run and I’d like to see him win.

Governor Barbour has the track record that shows him to be up to the job. Here are some key facts I’ve dug up to prove it:

Unemployment is a major issue we’re grappling with in America today. In 2003, the year before Haley Barbour took office, Mississippi was ranked 40th of 50 states in unemployment. By 2009, the last full year BLS has available, Mississippi climbed up five spaces to be 35th. With issues like Hurricane Katrina, the Obama Stimulated recession, and and a clear regional handicap, one can’t expect Mississippi to become North Dakota overnight, but the Governor clearly has taken his state in the right direction.

Budgeting is also something we’d like to see done well by our next President. And while some states are facing serious crises of confidence in their ability to pay their debts, Mississippi’s AA credit rating is at a High grade level reflecting confidence in the state. Contrast with California’s BBB, a Lower medium grade approaching speculative, non-investment, or “junk bond” status.

Like many states, the Obama economy brought challenges to Mississippi. In 2008-2009 the state risked a $175 million deficit, or 0.6% of total spending, and 0.2% of state GDP. The state was able to weather it though, as both the state and the local schools had put together Rainy Day Funds to withstand emergency budget cuts, which were made as needed. What’s remarkable is that the 0.6% deficit was so small when revenues dropped 6.5% below estimates. Barbour kept his state from having too many problems.

Barbour also took a sensible stance on taxes, warning that attempts to make a quick fix with a cigarette tax could fail completely. Says Sunshine Review:

Barbour warned lawmakers in estimating how much revenue a tax increase might generate, particularly since cigarette sales might decline because of the higher federal tax. He also warned that smokers might cross state lines thus not increasing state revenue after all.

And despite how tempting it might have been for a quick fix, the Governor refused to take an Obama payoff to revise unemployment benefits to be more generous. He pointed out that making unemployment benefits more generous would mean raising taxes on job creation, which is the last thing we need in an economy needing job creation. “We want more jobs. You don’t get more jobs by putting an extra tax on creating jobs,” he said per Sunshine Review.

In this Obama economy, it’s going to be tough for any Governor to find shining success economically. Instead it’s going to be critical for Governors to show that they made the best of what they had, and in Barbour’s case on the Gulf and in the path of Katrina, he’s had extra challenges to help Mississippi through. I think the record shows he’s done a good job and he’s make a fine contrast with the miserable failure of a President that we have.

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