Meridian Star


February 19, 2013

Are they all RINOs now?

MERIDIAN — Republicans coined the term “RINO” (Republicans in Name Only) to denigrate other Republicans who didn’t toe the conservative line.

    These days, I’m having trouble seeing the line.

    Thought it had to do with cutting the cost and size of government, reducing public and corporate welfare, and such. Must be a different line, though, with top Republicans ignoring the line I saw.

    Take Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn. He wants to re-locate the state Department of Revenue to his hometown, Clinton, from the current dilapidated building in nearby Raymond.

    “I represent the people of Clinton, and they sent me here to look out for their interests,” said Gunn.

    Doesn’t matter, apparently, that the $75 million purchase price for the old WorldCom headquarters in Clinton is 10 times the $7.6 million price for the alternative Landmark Center in Jackson.

    Doesn’t matter that the Department of Finance and Administration, with input from a consultant, said the Landmark building was the better site and would generate savings.

    Doesn’t matter that a Millsaps College study showed $30 million savings over 20 years by consolidating the Department of Revenue and smaller agencies into the Landmark Center (not counting the purchase price differential).

    So, the conservative Republican line is, let’s not cut the cost of government, but increase it to please constituents?

    Must be. The House passed Gunn’s bill.

    Take state Senator Dean Kirby from Brandon. He wants to give a new retail project in his area a $22 million tax break by making it seem like a tourism project.

    Current law provides tax incentives for qualified tourism projects (resort hotels, theme parks, etc.), but prohibits giving incentives to projects “whose primary business is retail sales.”  The Mississippi Development Authority under Governor Haley Barbour strongly opposed offering tax incentives to retail projects because they are market driven, not incentive driven.  

    Kirby’s ploy is to create a new type of tourism project called “cultural retail attractions.” These “attractions” would combine “destination shopping” with “cultural or historical interpretive elements specific to Mississippi.”

    In this case the “cultural retail attraction” would be an already announced $50 million plus investment outlet mall in Pearl. To qualify as a tourism project the mall would simply create its own “cultural or historical interpretive elements” by either spending $1,000,000 on Mississippi art, memorabilia, signage, historical markers, audio/visual equipment used to showcase Mississippi artists, or making 1,250 square feet space available to the Mississippi Development Authority for 10 years.

    Already existing retail attractions would not be eligible.

    Spend a little, save a lot… corporate welfare at its best.

    So, the conservative Republican line is, give unneeded corporate welfare to business?

    Must be. The Senate passed Kirby’s bill.

    Republicans control the House and Senate. So, are they all RINOs now?


    Bill Crawford ( is a

syndicated columnist from Meridian.

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