Funding an Issue for Ethics Commission

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Public trust in politics may be on the chopping block.

"The primary function of our agency is to provide guidance to folks in government who want to comply with the law," said Tom Hood, executive director of the Mississippi Ethics Commission.

Its task is simple, but not always easy, especially when dealing with the financial backing.

"We guarantee openness and integrity in state and local government and you can't put a price on that," Hood said.

But lawmakers have to when putting together a state budget.

As it stands now, the State Ethics Commission, known for its role in making sure elected leaders are abiding by the ethics law, could get an 18 percent funding cut. That's if the recommendation from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee is adopted.

"It would be devastating, said Hood. "We'd probably have to lay off essential personnel and stop conducting essential functions."

Hood says the agency only has 7 employees, so he questioned the proposed cut. Fortunately he says, it appears to be an oversight and doesn't expect such a large cut to happen.

Currently operating on just more than $650,000, any funding reduction would have impacts.

"We don't ask for more than we need and I expect the legislature will continue what they've done in the recent past and give us what we need to operate," Hood said.

The agency was set up by the Mississippi Legislature in 1979 after suspected corruption in county level politics.

Eight statewide members make up the commission. It's all a part of democracy which Hood says plays a vital role in Mississippi.

"Most people in government want to comply with the law," said Hood. "They just need to know how to comply with the law and what the law is."