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Barbour Targets Education in Budget Recommendation

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 20 Dec 2011 05:06pm | comments
Governor Barbour releases budget recommendation

Governor Barbour is using his final weeks in office to issue one more budget recommendation. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the governor is calling for a reduction in education spending, including K-12 spending.

In his last budget recommendation, Governor Haley Barbour's called for roughly three percent cuts to most state agencies and also a reduction in state spending on k-12 education.

He recommends roughly 2-percent in cuts, which he thinks can be kept out of the classroom.

"Nationally, K through12 schools spend 7.6% of their cost on education. Mississippi spends 8.8%. If we would just reduce our cost to the national average, we would save 24-million dollars a year," Barbour said.

Barbour says schools should use their reserves, which total more than 600-million dollars, to cover any budget gap they can't fill with cuts.

In an interview before the announcement, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tom Burnham says it is unfair to ask schools to use reserves because the money is not evenly spread out.

"To support maybe construction projects. To support maintenance of buildings. Money they have put aside for innovative programs. The problem is that you have many districts in Mississippi that just do not have the tax base to support any kind of reserves whatsoever," Burnham said.

While Barbour's budget calls for more cuts than the budget issued by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee last week, one key area of difference is money he left in.

Barbour called for level funding of Medicaid, whereas the Budget Committee recommended 50-million in cuts.

Medicaid director Bob Robinson says any cuts would be difficult because the director has very little control over spending.

"The way it is now, there is absolutely zero control over spending. So you are dealing with things you have no control over, so it is extremely difficult to save money or live within a budget," Robinson said.

Barbour's term in office ends January 10th, nearly six months before the new fiscal year starts.

The new Governor, Lt. Governor, and legislators can accept or ignore Barbour's ideas as they decide how to spend state money.

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Governor Barbour releases budget recommendation


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