There's more than a little I don't fully understand about the Mississippi governor's race so far, and I'm sure it'll only get more confusing as we count down the days to, first, August and then November.

The two things that most puzzle me are Haley Barbour hanging Mississippi's economic woes on Ronnie Musgrove, and the gutless vows by just about every candidate in every race not to raise taxes.

Gov. Musgrove has been trying to convince the Legislature for the past three years that its budget estimates were far too rosy. He begged, pleaded and threatened the legislators to lower their financial forecast. They wouldn't, and the governor had to make budget cuts.

So this week we get the word from the state Tax Commission that Mississippi collected almost $118 less than it budgeted. I can only imagine Musgrove sitting in the Governor's Mansion muttering something like, "Well, duh."

Barbour, trying to become the Republican candidate for governor and then the Republican governor, can and probably will raise any number of issues he and Musgrove disagree over, but if he'll take an honest look around he'll notice many states with his GOP buddies in charge are facing the same, or worse, problems than Mississippi.

Barbour's also proud of his close ties with the Bush administration, and that's all fine and good. But if he's going to hang Mississippi's economic woes on Musgrove, then he's also got to hang the nation's pitiful economy on his buddy in the White House.

Fair's fair.

And I'd like to hear just one politician running for office actually admit that, you know what, folks, we might just have to raise taxes pretty soon. There have been a few signs of an improving economy, but not enough to get all lathered up over.

It's not an election year in Alabama, and that might make it somewhat easier, but Gov. Bob Riley a Republican, mind you has proposed a $1.2 billion tax increase based primarily on jacking up property and income tax rates. Read it again: $1.2 billion as in $1,200,000,000.

Certainly, the voters have to approve it, or not, but the point is, Alabama's leadership it's Republican leadership is facing the music, as unpleasant as it may be.

Alabama, I'd be willing to bet, won't the only state considering raising taxes, and if it were an election year over there Riley would probably be railing against any such notions. But it's not and he isn't, and he won't be by himself.

Mississippi's tax system has been labeled the least progressive in the entire nation. A study conducted by economics professors at Mississippi State University indicated that if Mississippi would merely restructure what is already in place, the state would realize several millions more each year.

So why not restructure what we already have and then bump our taxes a bit if need be, and see what happens. If both those things were combined with the slight economic increases we're beginning to see, then we could be onto something.

But don't count on hearing many politicians mentioning any such ideas. Most of them would rather blame somebody else than trying to meet the problem head-on.

Danny McKenzie is associate editor of the Daily Journal.

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