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State Budget Moves To Conference

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 18 Apr 2012 05:37pm | comments

A select group of Mississippi Representatives and Senators are now beginning work on the state's 5 and a half billion dollar budget. The budget is now in conference between the House and Senate and MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that lead budget writers say their differences are minor.

The fight how to split up the state's $5.5 billion budget has historically been very contentious but appears calmer than usual this legislative session.

Senate appropriations chairman Buck Clarke of Hollandale says the budgets from the two chambers are remarkably close.

"It was amazing how close we were in the K-12 Increase. There are some many things. Medicaid has been the big driver, I would say, in the last week or so. Medicaid is just such a moving target and that is what makes it hard to figure out. You don't know how sick people are going to be and what type of procedures they are going to be using," Clarke said.

Clarke expects an increase in education spending...but the total budget will still fall short of the state formula that determines adequate spending.

Not only are law makers close on how much to spend, House Appropriations chairman Herb Frierson of Poplarville says they working from similar revenue projections.

"We are 2.3 million apart in revenue; the house and the senate. This is the closest any of the analyst can remember it being. And we are not that far apart on line item appropriations. No huge numbers. There are some 10-million and some 15-million but nothing just enormous," Frierson said.

The Lt. Governor is predicting that the positive start will mean the legislature finishing the budget by the April 30th deadline.

Speaker of the House Phillip Gun says the head start is a positive sign but says there is still a lot of work left.

"You saw the calendar. There are a lot of bills that still have to go through the conference process. We may have to meet but it may not be as intensive as it has in the past," Gunn said.

Approving a budget is one of the most essential functions of the legislature and will be the culmination of a process that began months ago.

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