Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Gov. Haley Barbour named K-12 education as a high priority in his state-of-the-state address Monday night, addressing budget shortfalls and upgrading the state's roads, but his overall message this year was frugal spending.
"(Balancing the budget) means we'll have to tell some people 'no'; it means some good things won't get funded or won't get as much funding as some people would like. Sometimes it's our job to say 'no,' even to our friends and to our favorite programs," Barbour said, adding that spending on certain priority programs had increased steadily over the last four years.
Barbour said he would endorse the full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, but warned that the belt was about to get tightened on college spending.
"I'm on record as favoring continued, large increases in funding higher education ... increases similar to my first term; but I'll tell you right now, we can't afford that this year. The money won't be there," Barbour warned, minutes after haranguing former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for cutting college spending during his term.
Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, said Democrats in both the House and Senate will be pushing to finance beyond K-12 education, however.
"Democrats will work hard to increase funding for our state's community colleges and university system. Doing so will end the seemingly annual tuition increases that only limit the ability of Mississippians to study and earn a higher education degree," Jordan said.
Barbour will have a hard fight in pushing for his proposed tax on hospitals. Barbour calls the tax a Gross Revenue Assessment, which he plans to use to replace $275 million in faltering federal funds. The Mississippi Hospital Association opposes the idea, and MHA is no wimp, having been a part of the huge surge for tort reform in 2004. MHA still has plenty of influence with legislators, just as it did in 2004. Some legislators are already arguing that the hospital tax will get passed quickly along to patients.