Our state’s high-priced consultant

Published 1:43 pm Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gov. Haley Barbour likes to say that the problem in government is not that the people are taxed too little but that the government spends too much.

That truism could be applied to his administration’s own spending when it comes to doling out money to a high-priced consultant.

In legislative budget hearings recently, Barbour’s head of economic development, Gray Swoope, was grilled over a cushy contract his agency negotiated with a former employee.

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The Mississippi Development Authority has been paying Terri Hudson $240 an hour to help oversee spending of federal money for Hurricane Katrina recovery. That’s roughly four times more than her salary when she was working as MDA’s chief financial officer.

Certainly, consultants — even in the private sector — usually make more than if they were on the payroll, since they have overhead to cover and receive no fringe benefits, such as health insurance or pensions, as independent contractors.

However, four times as much sounds grossly excessive.

It’s not as if Fortune 500 companies have been competing for Hudson’s services. She’s teaching accounting at Millsaps College, a fine liberal arts school but not exactly the domain of high rollers.

Barbour is awfully good — and usually accurate — about identifying waste in other parts of state government. He should turn, however, the spotlight sometimes on his own domain.