Monday, January 11, 2010
The Mississippi Legislature got off to a productive start last week, with the passage of an economic incentive package and an extension of workforce training funds, two measures that Gov. Haley Barbour had requested. That spirit of compromise seems to have waned, though, as the House and Governor's office remain locked in a standoff over Barbour's budget-cutting authority.
Current state law allows the governor to cut state agency budgetswith some exceptionsby up to 5 percent at his discretion. For cuts of more than 5 percent, however, he must cut all state agencies equally. Barbour has requested additional authority to make cuts, at his discretion, up to 10 percent.
A bill approved on Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee, H.B. 392, offered Barbour slightly less leeway, giving him authority for even, across-the-board cuts up to 10 percent. Barbour rejected the House proposal, though, and neither side seems willing to budge, Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said today.
"It's not dead, but it's on life support," Brown, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, told the Jackson Free Press.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, plans to introduce a bill today that would give Barbour the budget-cutting authority he wants. Nunnelee's bill, which has not been assigned a number yet, would allow the governor to cut any agency budget up to 10 percent.
"It's a very serious time we're living in, and we're going to have to make some difficult decisions," Nunnelee said. "This is probably the first of many."
Nunnelee plans to discuss the bill today, but he gave no details on when to expect a floor vote on the proposal, saying that he's learned not to predict the Legislature's actions.
Other than Nunnelee's proposal, few bills are likely to make their way to floor votes this week. Legislators have until Monday, Jan. 18, to submit legislation, so committee meetings this week may be heavy on presentations from outside groups.
For Legislative updates and daily blogging by reporters Adam Lynch and Ward Schaefer, be sure to see follow the JFP's State Blog.