• 61°

Lawmakers appear at impass on Miss. budget

JACKSON (AP) — Lawmakers can’t agree on how much money to spend for mental health, public education and other key programs, and Mississippi House and Senate leaders likely won’t meet Saturday’s deadline to file a compromise, lawmakers said Friday.

Once the compromise is filed, it would then be considered by the full House and Senate. Gov. Haley Barbour’s absence from the state isn’t helping matters, said House Appropriations Chairman Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, and Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson.

“The governor’s in Iowa. We want a budget. We want to get this done,” Brown said Friday.

Barbour, who’s expected to make an announcement about a presidential bid soon, was scheduled to be in Iowa through Saturday. Friday, Barbour canceled an appearance in New Hampshire that had been scheduled for Sunday and Monday. Both states hold early presidential primary contests.

Laura Hipp, a spokeswoman for Barbour, said the governor will return to Mississippi Saturday.

Barbour said in a news release Friday that the House budget plan spends more than the state is expected to generate in revenue.

“The House position on the budget is to ignore reality. Mississippi is experiencing 10 percent unemployment, high gas prices and a slowly recovering economy,” Barbour said.

Brown, who chairs the House Education Committee and is also a top budget writer, said Barbour wants lawmakers to fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program by raiding other education programs, including the teacher school supply and building equipment funds. The adequate education program provides a formula to ensure schools in both poor and wealthy communities receive equitable funding.

“It’s a shell game. Our answer to that is no. In fact, it was ’H’ no. We are not going to do it. I’m not going to sign off on it,” Brown told House members. “That’s where we are.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Doug Davis, R-Hernando, said the Senate proposes cutting about $40 million from those other K-12 programs. Davis has said there’s about $65 million that school districts have in reserve because of federal money they received last year. He said other agencies, including the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the state Auditor’s Office, also have to be adequately funded.

“We’re doing all we can for all areas,” Davis said.

House leaders said Barbour wants to cut about $20 million from the Department of Mental Health budget. Stringer said that would force the closure of crisis centers across the state. Stringer also said the governor doesn’t want to provide $15 million to the University of Mississippi Medical Center so that it can receive matching federal Medicaid money.

Lawmakers have until 8 p.m. Saturday to file a compromise on the state’s $5.5 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. If negotiators make the deadline, the full House and Senate could begin considering bills on Sunday. The 2011 session is set to end April 2.

House leaders said they were planning to send the Senate their proposals on mental health, K-12 education and universities. However, there have been disagreements as to where money for the budget would come from.

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said he’s concerned about the House proposal because it uses about $500 million that the state will receive only once to pay for expenses that will need to be covered every year. That means lawmakers will have to figure out another way to get that money come 2013.

“I just keep asking, where is that going to come from? That means dramatic cuts on education, health care, next year — or a tax increase. So, I just think we’ve got to have a real balanced budget,” said Bryant, who’s running for governor.

The $5.5 billion budget plan for fiscal year 2012 includes $4.6 billion of general fund revenue, which comes from a wide array of taxes and fees. About $900 million comes from other sources, including federal stimulus money, lawsuit settlements and financial reserves. Legislators voted to add $14.4 million to the estimate of general fund revenue for the coming year, taking that figure from just under $4.6 billion to just over it. They made the change after an economist report about positive economic trends.

Davis, the Senate appropriations chairman, was opposed to changing the revenue estimate. Barbour also criticized the move.

News

Former Natchez Mayor Butch Brown off of ventilator in Jackson ICU

COVID-19

State reports 1,606 new COVID cases and 40 new COVID related deaths

News

Natchez native pens third installment of murder series

News

Photo Gallery: ACCS student celebrates birthday with drive-thru party

COVID-19

State reports 2,680 new COVID-19 cases, 70 new COVID related deaths

News

Wreck on St. Catherine Street takes out pole

News

Merit Health nurse of 23 years dies with COVID-19 complications

News

Girl Scout cookie time is here for Adams County

News

Brookhaven woman linked to over 15 ounces meth arrested in Adams County

News

Concordia Parish deputies uncover 14 stolen firearms after traffic stop

COVID-19

State reports 1,948 new COVID-19 cases, 41 new deaths amid vaccine shortage

COVID-19

State experiencing surge in patients attempting COVID-19 vaccination

News

Movie filmed in Natchez hits screens Feb. 12

News

Three finalists chosen for Executive Director in Natchez tourism commission

News

Kevin Warren named publisher in Natchez, Brookhaven, Prentiss

News

Girl Scout cookie season kicks off nationally Feb. 1

News

City of Natchez nearing lease agreement for old train depot

News

Former Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick remembered a kind, loving servant

News

City of Natchez to consider financing parks and recreation improvements

ACCS sports

ACCS without starting goalkeeper

News

Photos: Work crews demolish old A&P grocery on Franklin Street; make way for Recovery Enterprises

COVID-19

State reports new COVID-19 cases, deaths

News

Photo gallery: Locals share photos of their snow day

News

CPSO deputies apprehended multiple people for drugs, weapons