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Unexpected Vote Complicates Mississippi Budget Process

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 31 Mar 2014 11:44pm | comments

After a 14-hour session, Mississippi legislators has failed to complete a budget for every state agency. Lawmakers approved nearly every agency but the house defeated the appropriation for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. As MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports, the unexpected vote complicates the final days of the session.

That was the reaction after the electronic vote board showed the defeat of the Department of Transportation budget....121 red no's to one green yes.

House appropriations chairman herb Frierson of Poplarville was blunt with his assessment of what the vote means.

"Its dead. Its dead, dead, dead, dead, dead," Frierson said.

House transportation committee chair Robert Johnson of Natchez led the revolt against the bill claiming on the floor that the 925-million dollar budget showers money on special interests projects.

"I would be shirking my responsibility as a chairman. As an elected member of this house of representatives if I stood by an watched somebody run over you (and) take money out of your pockets and out of your constituents pockets and ignore your needs in this state right now," Johnson said.

Both chambers agreed to the remainder of the roughly 6-billion dollar state budget.

The defeat of the transportation budget means lawmakers must find a legislative trick to approve it in the regular session or face a special session to keep the department alive.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, who runs the state Senate, says he is surprised by the vote since it appeared negotiators agreed to a compromise bill.

"If fact, I understand the conferees signed not one, not two, but three conference reports on the Department of Transportation. All of which said virtually the same thing," Reeves said.

The 2014 legislative is set to expire Sunday....and with a full plate of other bills, leaving the transportation budget unfinished adds a large unexpected complication to the final days.

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