Barbour releases revised budget with deeper cuts

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – When House Education Chair Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, was asked his impression of Gov. Haley Barbour’s latest budget proposal Tuesday, he said, “It’s a disaster,” and then added, “but ours is not much better.
“There is just not enough revenue.”
The harsh reality, both Barbour and Brown pointed out, is that with an unprecedented drop in state tax collections, the state budget picture is not a pretty one.
Barbour released his revised budget recommendation Tuesday as the Legislature prepares to resume the 2010 session on Tuesday after a recess of more than three weeks.
Their goal is to agree on a general fund budget totaling close to $5.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Barbour released his original proposal for the upcoming fiscal year in November 2009, but as revenue has continued to come in below projections, he said it was “appropriate and fair” to present a new proposal for legislators to consider.
In his latest proposal, most state agencies are cut between 12 percent and 17 percent from what they were appropriated by the 2009 Legislature. Barbour already has cut 9.5 percent from that appropriated amount for most agencies.
“This budget forces everyone in government to take a good look at programs and make sure taxpayers are getting the best service for their money,” said Barbour, who met with legislative leaders to present his budget Tuesday morning to legislative leaders and unveiled it to the public Tuesday afternoon.
Brown said the governor’s budget cuts about $80 million more from kindergarten through 12th grade education than what was passed earlier this year by the House and Senate.
Brown said he believes the House will strive to place more money into education than proposed by Barbour. But that would require cuts in other areas.
“This is going to be a rough budget year,” Brown said.
Both the legislative leadership and the governor have agreed for the most part on the amount of money, including reserve funds, to be budgeted in the upcoming fiscal year. They are essentially budgeting about one-third of the state’s rainy day funds.
While the governor was unveiling his proposal Tuesday afternoon, House and Senate leaders met behind closed doors to work on a budget.
Brown said they continue to make progress.

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.