Gov. Barbour: Look for more areas to cut

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – State agencies, many already reeling from layoffs and furloughs, are being asked to submit additional cost-cutting proposals to Gov. Haley Barbour.
The second-term Republican governor wants “potential cost-cutting ideas” before Nov. 1 for the upcoming 2012 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Barbour sent the letter to the agency heads Tuesday to get input in advance of presenting his budge proposal to the 2011 Legislature.
The state is showing some hints of a moderate recovery from three years of an unprecedented drop in state revenue collections.
While the Mississippi revenue picture might be improving, Barbour said the state still faces a budget hole of $400 million, primarily due to the loss of federal stimulus funds that have plugged budget holes during the past two years.
“The global economic slowdown has forced private firms to operate more efficiently during a period of reduced revenue,” Barbour said in a news release. “Government must also evaluate whether we are operating as efficiently and effectively as we could be.
“In the short term, this will allow us to weather the budgetary storm with minimal reductions in key services. In the long term, taxpayers will benefit from a right-sized government that does more with less.”
The state’s financial woes already have had an impact on agency budgets, including education. The state has 705 fewer teachers in the classroom this year as a result of budget cuts, and many teachers are making less money because of state-approved furloughs.
Anticipating more cuts, Commissioner of Higher Education Hank Bounds said the eight public universities have developed three-year business plans that will result in a reduction of 1,100 faculty and staff across the system.
Barbour wants the agencies to cut another 15 percent, he said in the letter.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.