Unlike most of the candidates believed to be in the running for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour openly acknowledges the possibility. "I have started thinking about it," Barbour tells The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger
Barbour's long-suspected presidential ambitions -
and his popularity within the Republican Party -
are a good reason to pay attention to the state budget he proposed on Monday (November 15). The plan may be a strong indication of how GOP governors around the country view the mandate the party received from voters earlier this month.
Barbour's $5.5 billion budget raises no taxes or fees, but relies on 8-percent cuts across most state government agencies to address a $700 million shortfall, The Clarion-Ledger
reports. That is in keeping with what at least 12 of the nation's new governors proposed doing on the campaign trail this year: balancing their states' budgets without raising taxes, as Stateline reported earlier this month
Barbour would freeze annual pay raises for teachers and cut Medicaid reimbursement rates. He wants to reduce funding for public television, public libraries and community college sports, close mental health hospitals and -
perhaps most controversially -
consolidate the state's three historically black colleges. The latter effort went nowhere last year, and is likely to encounter opposition again this year. Despite its Republican leanings, Mississippi still has a Democratic House of Representatives, which is likely to block or alter some of Barbour's proposals.
Barbour, for his part, sees the all-cuts budget as necessary to ensuring the future fiscal health of the state.
"I do not intend to leave my successor financially in the type of budget shape I was in when I came here," he says.