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First Budget Deadline Looms

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 17 Mar 2013 01:25pm | comments

Tomorrow is the deadline for Mississippi lawmakers to approve the initial version of a state budget. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the two chambers are not far apart in early budget negotiations.

With Republicans in control of both the house and senate, the process of drafting the 5. 5 billion state budget is less contentious than in recent sessions.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves says the two chambers are working closely together and are not far off in their early drafts.

"But the encouraging thing, is that the house and senate are less than 20-million dollars apart on the overall budget. And so it is very obvious to me that the chairman of appropriations in the house and the chairman of appropriations in the senate have worked very closely together in developing their budgets. And because of that we are much further along than is often the case," reeves said.

Part of that separation comes from the fact that the Senate is including about 15-million dollars for a pre-k education program and to offer grants for more armed guards in public schools.

But just because Republicans agree, does not mean there is no controversy.

Democratic Representative Cecil Brown of Jackson says many of the budgets, including corrections, mental health and education, are deeply under-funded.

"The thing that upsets me a little bit more is that we have given away so much money in terms of tax credits and tax breaks that we have reduced the general fund by some 50-million dollars at a time when we can't fund our corrections system. We could literally be forced by the courts to release prisoners. That has happened in other states," Brown said.

The budget lawmakers are currently working on now will take effect July first of this year.

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