Wicker-Musgrove Fact Check

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

The Roger Wicker-Ronnie Musgrove race is apparently neck-and-neck, with just 29 days will the Nov. 4 election.

So far, the only face-to-face meeting took place Friday in a debate aired by WTOK-TV and its statewide network partners.

But did the candidates have their facts straight?

They are two issues the Wicker and Musgrove campaigns have zeroed in on the last few weeks. They were also big topics in last week's debate.

"Gov. Kirk Fordice left the Ronnie Musgrove administration with a $230 million dollar rainy day fund," said Wicker, a Republican appointed by the governor to fill the Senate seat until the special election. "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, a Democrat and a former Mississippi governor.

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

"It's kind of shocking to think those two were once roommates," said Matt Steffey a law professor at Mississippi College School of Law, where the debate was held.

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, said Steffey.
"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."

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. I think people will remember, however, the fiscal management of Governor Musgrove," Steffey said.

Musgrove has always contended that 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 deficit in August 2003, two months before Musgrove lost the governor's office to Haley Barbour.


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