Local lobbyists may hear ‘no’ more often

The difference between investments in our country and pork-barrel projects may be in the eye of the beholder.

Photo: On Aug. 25, the Madison County Business League hosted “Coffee with the Senator.” The breakfast was held at the law offices of Butler Snow in Ridgeland, and featured special guest U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (third, from left). Business League members pictured with Cochran are (from left) John Taylor of AJ’s Seafood Grille; Bill Guion of BankPlus, Business League chairman; Bob Williams of UnitedHealthcare Mississippi, Madison County Economic Development Authority board member; Jim Pettis of Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs; and Sidney Allen of Butler Snow. (Special to The Herald)

My late father-in-law, an Iowan, used to call the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway a boondoggle. Yet to Mississippians, it was an economic development project almost screaming to be completed during the 1980s.

Back then, states and communities got their pet projects funded by Congress a little easier than it will be in the future, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said this past Thursday during the “Coffee with the Senator” event held by the Madison County Business League at the Butler Snow law firm.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, which Cochran voted for, mandates $917 billion in cuts during the next decade.

“Now that’s going to be felt,” said the state’s senior senator.

The bill also gives the president the authority to raise the debt limit by $917 billion, though. As the website www.georgetowner.com points out, the debt limit hike is over less than a year’s time, while the cutting will be done over a 10-year period.

And Cochran admits the bill is is “a work in progress.”

“I voted for it because it immediately alters our spending and eliminates the risk of us defaulting on our obligations,” Cochran said. “It is a significant step and is part of the ongoing process of getting our fiscal house in order.”

In other words, a step and not the entire journey. Balancing the nation’s budget is a series of nos, some more difficult to say than others.

“What we face is a challenge to our self discipline and our ability to say ‘no’ to a constituent,” Cochran said.

This was not to say that Madison Countians are not welcome in Washington, the senator said. Mississippi and her cities and counties should be treated fairly in the nation’s capital, and input from local residents is needed in order for our leaders to make informed decisions on projects.

Just understand that, during the next decade, those with their hats in hand may hear ‘no’ more often.

Madison County had plenty to be proud of during Cochran’s visit. Many of the guests were first-time visitors to 200 Renaissance, the once-controversial home to Butler Snow as well as Horne LLP in Ridgeland.

The view from the building’s 14th floor is breath-taking. “Can you see Nissan from here?” Cochran quipped.

The senator hailed Madison County as “one of the most progressive and successful areas of the state.”

That’s a point of pride for Madison County, as along I-55 gleaming business headquarters and shopping areas give way to manufacturing as well as quaint common space and neighborhoods that beckon families.

But our success is also a challenge. Madison County should continue its involvement in shaping its future and the future of Mississippi. Our home has come a great distance in the past 50 years, and although financial challenges will await during the next decade, prudent and responsible leadership along with the setting of priorities should bring us to wisely managed growth.

Article by Annie Oeth from the MC Herald ยท September 1, 2011