Senator Chris McDaniel published an op-ed in the Clarion Ledger today to outline his objections to the current legislative proposal to raise $200 million to fund infrastructure spending by imposing new fees and a state lottery:
As a member of the State Senate, and as a candidate for the United States Senate, I have pledged to the people of Mississippi that I would never support an increase in taxes or fees. I consider this position as a solemn oath and obligation to my fellow Mississippians, one that I will never violate for any reason. And to support the current proposal before the legislature would be to do just that.
Respectfully, the plan being debated by the legislature to raise an additional $200 million by increasing taxes, fees, and with the creation of a state lottery is not sound economic policy.
With Americans spending nearly $75 billion per year buying lottery tickets, it is, for all practical purposes, a tax that predominately hits the middle class and the poor, with the bulk of the burden falling on the latter. One economist described such schemes this way: “The state lottery is a Sheriff of Nottingham policy because, like the character in Robin Hood, it steals from the poor to give to the bureaucrats, politicians and the rich,” thereby making it a regressive tax and a form of wealth redistribution.
Perhaps worse, the plan we have been asked to consider is not based on conservative ideas of free-market capitalism but is steeped in the policies of liberal Keynesian economic models.
With a finite number of dollars in circulation at any given moment, particularly in a poorer state like Mississippi, every dollar taken out of private hands and given over to government is a dollar that cannot be invested in private enterprise or used for the consumption of goods and services, which drives real economic growth.
Instead, the government’s confiscation of the dollar devalues the currency through administrative costs, corruption, fraud, waste, and additional conditions imposed on its use. Consequently, the dollar’s most efficient and best use can only be realized when it is left in the hands of individual Mississippians free from political coercion and force — the money should remain in private circulation whenever possible, not in the hands of politicians.
Put simply, more money in the hands of government will serve not the interests of the people but the interests of the government, increasing its size and scope, which is not the philosophy to which Republicans adhere.
These types of funding gimmicks are nothing new; we’ve seen misguided schemes like this before. From the legalization of alcohol in the 1960s to the tobacco lawsuits and dockside gambling in the 1990s, greedy politicians promised Mississippians vast improvements with every new revenue proposal, but yet our state still struggles near the bottom economically, and our citizens are left behind to fight for the crumbs leftover by government waste. So based on historical evidence, I don’t believe another grand economic plan will finally work as it was intended.
Though the goal of the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act is an admirable one, raising taxes and fees on the people to accomplish it is not.
There is already enough money in state coffers, as well as from our current gas taxes, to begin the process of modernizing and rebuilding our roads and bridges if we conduct our fiscal affairs wisely — a bonding moratorium except for critical infrastructure needs would be a great start. Medicaid and welfare reform would also free up millions. Instead of throwing new money at an undefined problem, we should reform government, prioritize expenses, address immediate concerns, plan for the future, and learn to live within our means.
If the state’s politicians would stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars as they have in previous years on frivolous projects and crony capitalism, those funds could be reallocated to our infrastructure needs. Mirroring the troubles in Washington, our problems in Mississippi do not stem from a lack of revenue but from too much spending. This is the problem we should be addressing.
As Republicans, if we are consistent with our promises to the people of Mississippi, then any additional revenue created by the proposal should be offset by an equal amount of reductions in other areas. For example, the extra 200 million dollar infusion each year could be used to reduce property taxes, income taxes, or to eliminate the outrageous costs of automobile tags.
But sadly, we keep marching to the beat of big government, which only exacerbates our longstanding economic woes.
Therefore, unless we offset this proposed growth of government with the reductions and reforms discussed above, I cannot support the current plan to increase taxes, fees, and to establish a state lottery. To do so would go against everything I believe and the promises I’ve made to the people of Mississippi.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville is running for a U.S. Senate seat.