Budget, Momentum bill top legislative agenda

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Legislators are headed back to the Capitol at 1 p.m. today for a special session to pass a budget, deal with the Momentum Mississippi economic development package and more.

The Legislature failed in the regular session that ended in April to pass a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

At least one local legislator &045; Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, whose district includes part of Adams County &045; said he’s optimistic lawmakers will produce a financially sound budget sooner rather than later.

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&uot;Hopefully, we can take care of business within seven to 10 days,&uot; Mims said. &uot;But first, we’ve got to get everybody on the same page.&uot;

That’s the difficult part, said Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, who noted some have predicted the special session will last two weeks.

&uot;I don’t know whether budget negotiators are any closer (to agreeing on a budget) than they were when we left&uot; the regular session, Dearing said.

One obstacle will be deciding how to use $100 million from the state’s MCI settlement, and Mims said he hopes it will be used to help retire debt or for one-time expenses, not for recurring ones.

&uot;That’s one of the reasons we’re in the financial shape we are in today,&uot; Mims said, referring to spending one-time money on recurring expenses. &uot;Besides, we have debts that legally we have to pay.&uot;

Another obstacle will be balancing budget without making drastic cuts to such areas public safety, mental health and higher education, Dearing said.

Mims said he believes Momentum Mississippi, a package of economic development incentives pushed by Gov. Haley Barbour, would help areas, such as Adams County, whose economies have suffered with plant closings in recent years.

&uot;It gives us more tools to use to attract more businesses and expand existing businesses,&uot; Mims said. &uot;I’m hopeful the speaker of the House and Ways and Means will let it out of committee so we can vote on it.&uot;

&uot;Any area of the state would benefit from the economic development&uot; Momentum Mississippi’s incentives would bring, Dearing said. &uot;But it would also help existing businesses a great deal.&uot;

Several other items also will be on the session’s agenda. According to the Associated Press, those include:

4Revival of the telemarketing no-call list that’s set to expire July 1.

4Reconsideration of a bill to prevent abuse of the elderly.

4Creation of a fund to help military families with loved ones on active duty.

Natchez Mayor Phillip West said it is his understanding the governor may also bring up a bond bill in the special session.

&uot;I hope we’re a part of that,&uot; he said, referring to the $10 million in bonds the city has been seeking to help with downtown revitalization projects.

That money would be used for various projects, and could also be used to help leverage other funds.

Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, and Sen. Kelvin Butler, D-Magnolia, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.