Mississippi’s New Governor

Haley Barbour had been RNC chairman for a number of years and was considered a Washington insider with little chance of winning the governorship. He did win, and by a six-point margin if I recall correctly. It looked closer than it ended up being because of the requirement in Mississippi that you win not only a majority of the vote, but also a majority of the vote in a majority of the counties. He didn’t declare victory until very late.

I went to one of his pre-Inauguration banquets tonight and it was a nice affair. Lots of people to mingle with and it was held at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, an exceptionally nice casino with several good restaurants and conference rooms. His speech was about bringing the state together to solve the problems and it was an OK speech. He will need to work closely with the legislature since it’s dominated by Democrats.

Haley’s going to the right place to solve most of Mississippi’s problems — Jackson, the state capital — because that’s where most of the state’s problems emanate.

Mississippi is a classic example of the “good-old-boy network” at work. The state tax code is highly progressive and hideously complicated. Rent-seeking is a sport in this state, with existing industries seeking favorable tax treatment, subsidies, and other legal privileges. The trial lawyers are out of control as well. The state desperately needs to simplify the tax code and get rid of numerous ad valorum taxes. Mississippi is even worse than California in this respect, with the worst tax code in the country (California is #49).

Will Haley Barbour do anything to fix these problems? I don’t know. I heard school choice mentioned at the banquet, but that’s about it and the teachers’ unions are too strong to get a real choice program through.

I hope he tries to do something about the tax code and all of the rent-seeking that takes place. To me, those are the biggest problems facing the state and the most difficult to address because existing interests are quite influential. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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