Fact Check: Musgrove/Wicker Claims Examined - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 10/06/08

Fact Check: Musgrove/Wicker Claims Examined

By Jon Kalahar
jkalahar@wlbt.net

The Roger Wicker/Ronnie Musgrove Senate race is neck-and-neck with just 29 days till the election.

So far the only face-to-face meeting took place last Friday and WLBT brought it to you live.

But did the candidates have their facts straight? We looks at two issues heard over and over in this race.  

 "Governor Kirk Fordice left the Ronnie Musgrove administration with a $230 million rainy day fund," Wicker said in Friday's debate, "(and) he spent every bit of it in four short years and in addition to that ran a $700 million budget hole."

"In this instance, if you look at all the information, all of the record, I think it's clear that Roger Wicker voted nine times for his own pay raise," said Musgrove

So whom do you believe? Can those numbers be correct?

"It's kind of shocking to think those two were once roommates," said Matt Steffey, Mississippi College law professor.

We asked Steffey to help clear things up. Steffey teaches constitutional law and follows state and national politics. He also attended the debate. Steffey says Wicker has voted to raise his own pay, but it's a raise all federal employees get.

"In 1989 congress decided -- they forbade members from accepting speaking fees to try to insulate them from an appearance of impropriety and in exchange they kind of built in what are essentially cost of living pay increases, two and a half percent, one percent, two percent," said Steffey.

But what about Musgrove's four years as governor? A $700 million budget hole?

"I am deeply skeptical that all those facts are true in the way Mr. Wicker presented them," Steffey said. "I think people will remember however the fiscal management of Governor Musgrove."

Musgrove has always contended he could not have a $700 million budget deficit because law requires a balanced budget each fiscal year.

At least one media source reported an estimated $450 million to $700 million dollar deficit in August of 2003, two months before Musgrove lost the governor's office to Haley Barbour.

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