Lobbyist costing MS taxpayers too much?

By: Jon Kalahar

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Executive Director of the legislative performance evaluation and expenditure review committee Max Arinder says too much money is spent on contract lobbyists for state agencies.

Arinder said, "I think the key here is to determine whether agencies have established an appropriate need for those contract lobbyists."

But what the senate ethics committee found out is state law neither prohibits or authorizes the use of contract lobbyists, meaning no laws have been broken.

You may be wondering what contract lobbyists have to do with common Mississippians. Well, according to a Peer commission report over the last five years, state agencies have spent one point two million dollars on contract lobbyists. But the ethics committee thinks it may be closer to two million. Arinder thinks lawmakers need to find out if the service is worth the price.

"We're not saying in all situations that there was not benefit received; we're saying this process needs to be carefully looked at," said Arinder.

And in tough budget times for the state, couldn't that money be spent better somewhere else? Committee chair, Senator Merle Flowers says, yes it could.

"We're facing a very tight difficult budget situation in this coming calendar year when the session reconvenes in January. It's a very easy thing to do to save tax payers money, but I also believe it's the right public policy," Flowers said.

Wednesday, Lawmakers questioned agency heads from the Department of Transportation and the Institutions of Higher Learning. They expect to call more to testify when they resume hearings once the legislative session starts next year. Lawmakers hope to pass legislation to restrict the use of contract lobbyists by state agencies during that time.