Ethics Commission faces major budget cuts

(WMC-TV) - A small, yet crucial Mississippi state agency could be facing some drastic budget cuts.

The Ethics Commission, which makes sure elected leaders are abiding by the law, could see a major budget cut in the coming year.

The Director says it would cripple their efforts.

The task of the Mississippi State Ethics Commission is simple but not always easy. just ask it's executive director Tom Hood.

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

But Lawmakers have to put a price on it when putting together a state budget.

The state ethics commission is known for its role in making sure elected leaders are abiding by the ethics laws and conflicts of interests, but it could see an 18 percent cut from its budget.

With the commission only operating on $650,000 a year, that cut equals about $117,000.

It could translate into loss of jobs and loss of meaningful work

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

That is, if the recommendation from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee is adopted.

The commission only has seven employees, but Hood remains hopeful a large cut like that does not happen.

"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," he said.

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

And with ethical questions remaining among current Mississippi politicians, Hood says the commission plays a vital role.

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

But without the ethics commission able to do its job, that is one less agency looking out for you and other taxpayers by making sure elected leaders follow the law.

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