Bryant: Budget hearings will go on

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Legislative budget hearings will start Sept. 19 after House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, rejected Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant’s proposal to cancel them this year.
Bryant, the Republican nominee for governor, had proposed last week canceling the hearings because at least four members of the 14-member committee will not be in the Legislature when the 2012 session begins.
“The speaker and I discussed the idea of canceling the September hearings and he objected to my proposal resulting in the hearings going forward,” Bryant said in a prepared statement.
The committee, by law, was established to hear budget requests from state agencies and develop a budget blueprint for the Legislature during the following regular session, which always starts in January.
When the new session starts, Bryant; Senate President Pro Tem Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport; Senate Appropriations Chair Doug Davis, R-Hernado, and McCoy will not be in their current offices. Bryant is running for governor while McCoy is retiring. Hewes and Davis lost election bids in Republican primaries this past month.
For those reasons, Bryant had argued that it did not make sense for the committee to meet this fall. But McCoy said that the Budget Committee membership had the potential of changing every four years and that it would be neglecting members’ responsibility and violating the law if they did not meet this year to develop a budget proposal.
Besides hearing from agency heads, the committee also will meet with outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour to develop a revenue estimate that will represent the amount of money available to budget and will release a budget proposal in December.
While Bryant, who will chair the meetings, has agreed to the hearings in September, he reiterated that he wants to change the current budgeting process.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com