Barbour, lawmakers still at odds on budget

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2011

JACKSON (AP) — The governor’s office met again Monday with key budget writers as state leaders continued trying to reach an agreement on a spending plan for next fiscal year and resolve the budget issues that are about to put this year’s session into overtime.

House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, who’s also a chief budget architect, said the Democrat-led House is opposed to Republican Gov. Haley Barbour’s position to cut public education by tens of millions of dollars.

He also said Barbour’s proposals keep changing. Barbour’s office now wants to cut $3.5 million from vocational programs, Brown said Monday after the meeting.

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Brown said reducing state funds for vocational education could “endanger” millions in federal matching funds. Brown said the money would be cut from K-12 programs and community colleges.

“We don’t know their rationale,” Brown said.

Lawmakers have missed a deadline to file budget bills, so they’ll have to extend the session to complete work on the $5.5 billion budget. The session is scheduled to end on Saturday.

Barbour said in a statement Monday that education is his top priority. He said his proposal would fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, an equity funding formula for elementary and secondary schools.

“While I’m proposing level funding for MAEP, I am asking that K-12 find $30 million in savings in other areas,” Barbour said.

Brown said K-12 public education has already been cut by $300 million over the last four years.

“We don’t agree with the governor that we need to devastate public education,” Brown said Monday.