Bryant's prediction of speedy compromise tested

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant had predicted that a “bipartisan compromise” would develop quickly after he worked to sustain Gov. Haley Barbour’s veto of a budget restoration bill, but a plan has yet to materialize.

On Wednesday, Bryant issued a statement referring to a bipartisan compromise to restore a portion of the $458.5 million the governor has cut from state agencies and education this fiscal year.

He had said the compromise would replace the vetoed bill, which spent $79 in reserve funds to restore a portion of the budgets.

On Thursday, with Bryant’s backing, the Senate upheld Barbour’s veto. And as Bryant predicted, House and Senate budget leaders quickly began negotiations on another possible compromise.

But negotiators left Friday with no agreement.
On Friday, Appropriations Chair Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, the lead Senate negotiator, moved to within $1.4 million of the House position on funding for K-12 education.

The House wants to restore $38.4 million of the $205.7 million, or 8.7 percent, cut from K-12. The Senate position is virtually the same as in the vetoed legislation.
“The Senate made a proposal that is significant,” Nunnelee said.

But key differences still exist.
Nunnelee was insistent Friday that $16 million of the $29 million cut from prisons be restored. House Appropriations Chair Johnny Stringer, D-Montorse, agreed to restore $10 million, but refused to go any higher Friday.
Stringer said he agreed to $10 million reluctantly since neither chamber had voted for more than $4 million in prisons.
“I put my best deal up first,” Stringer said. “Heck with all these games.”

The key differences besides Corrections is that Nunnelee does not provide any funds for the Department of Mental Health and community colleges.

The House proposal does not restore funds cut from counties for homestead exemption tax breaks for homeowners.

The House plan would restore $4 million of the $20.1 million cut from Mental Health and $3 million of the $21.1 million cut from the community colleges.

The Senate would restore $2.9 million of the $7.3 million slashed from homestead exemption.