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Time Winds Down For Budget Compromise

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 30 Mar 2011 05:21pm | comments

Time is running out for Mississippi law makers to approve a budget for the next fiscal year. The 2011 session scheduled to end in two days. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on the tug of war between the Democrats and the Republicans.

The end of the session is scheduled for Saturday and leading budget writers for the House and Senate are still trying to reach an agreement over the details of the state's 2012 budget.

The big stumbling blocks remain education and mental health spending.

House speaker Billy McCoy of Rienzi remains firm that the House has already compromised enough on the budget.

"We have given and given and given and education has taken too much of a beating in the last three or four years. We can't stand to do this anymore in Mississippi," McCoy said.

Governor Haley Barbour says he supports level funding for K-12 education but accuses the house of changing how it accounts for education spending by not including federal dollars in the total...as they have done in previous years.

"We need to use the same accounting and play by the same rules every year. Not change the rules in the middle of the year just because somebody wants to spend more money then they need to," Barbour said.

Barbour says the education and mental health budgets are big enough to make what he considers small budget concessions.

The Mississippi Constitution prevents legislators from taking up money bills in the final days of the session. A vote to extend the session failed in the house.

Representative Greg Snowden of meridian says house republicans won't vote for an extension until there is a final compromise.

"And the only reason, in my opinion, that we had a timely budget in the regular session is that the house Republicans did the same thing last year and said 'no, we are going to live by the deadlines'. Come to a decision and then we will extend the session," Snowden said.

The only other option is for the Governor to call a special session...all parties involved say they want to avoid a special session which could cost at least 20-thousand dollars a day.

In a brief statement late Wednesday, leading house budget writers say they are working with the Senate and making progress toward a final budget proposal that could avoid a pricey special session. 

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