Funds possible for industrial training
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Legislative leaders are expected to find at least part of the $6 million needed to prevent a deficit from occurring in the state’s industrial training efforts.
Earlier in the session, legislative leaders were skeptical that the money could be found because of tight budget restraints.
But during a recent interview, House Speaker Tim Ford, D-Tupelo, said he believes at least part of the deficit appropriation request would be funded.
“We have found some lapse money in the Department of Education budget. We think we can transfer some of that,” Ford said. Ford said the additional funds provided by the Legislature might be well below the $6 million request. He said it could be closer to $2 million.
Denton Gibbs, a spokesman for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the agency is optimistic that the Legislature will come up with additional money for workforce training.
The workforce training program funds commitments made by the Department of Economic and Community Development, which is the state’s industrial recruitment agency.
Through the program, the state provides work-related training for the state’s new and expanding industries. For instance, the state guaranteed $8 million in industrial training at Itawamba Community College when Tecumseh announced an $80 million expansion in Lee County in February 1994.
Officials said the Lee County expansion of Tecumseh would produce 500 jobs for the manufacturer of refrigeration equipment.
Because of expansions like the one at Tecumseh, the industrial training budget has been depleted.
That’s why DECD Director Jimmy Heidel has requested the deficit appropriation. It is a deficit request because funds for the current budget year were appropriated last year by the state Legislature. The Legislature currently is working on the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Heidel said in an earlier interview he had to request the additional funds because of the state’s successful industrial recruitment efforts.
Ford said funds for the industrial training might be available from the Department of Education Minimum Foundation Program, which funds various education activities, such as teacher salaries.
By the end of this week, the budget picture will be much clearer for the Department of Economic and Community Development and all other state agencies.
This week will begin the conference committee process, in which key leaders from both the Senate and House meet to work out the differences in legislation.
“We will have to squeeze $100,000 or $200,000 from some agencies to make some budgets work,” Ford said. “The Senate and the House are not nearly as far apart (in where money has been appropriated) as they have been in the past.”
One place where the Senate and the House are far apart is on a statewide Uniform Youth Court, which will cost about $5.5 million annually.
The Youth Court passed the Senate, but died in the House because leaders said funds were not available.
Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who presides over the Senate, has been lobbying the House to reconsider the Youth Court. Ford said that if money can be found during the conference committee process then the House will take up the Youth Court bill.