Hard feelings linger as budget work resumes

JACKSON – House and Senate negotiators began work on a state budget Tuesday after the Legislature reconvened the 2009 session.
Some hard feelings remained on the House side because Senate negotiators were not available to work this past weekend.
“If I had conferees doing that, they would not be conferees anymore,” said House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi.
If an agreement had been reached before the Legislature returned, it could have saved the state money. It costs the state about $19,000 for each day the full Legislature is in Jackson.
Rep. Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, tried to meet with lead Senate negotiator, Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, Friday afternoon.
But Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who presides over the Senate, told Stringer that Nunnelee would not be available until 10 a.m. Tuesday. Legislature was to reconvene at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
In reality, Nunnelee and Stringer did not meet until after 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Nunnelee said he did not know about Bryant’s phone call. He said he was in Jackson on Saturday and would have been able to meet.
“I have a cell phone readily available,” said Nunnelee, who did not respond to McCoy’s charge other than to say “that’s his prerogative.”
Bryant said he thought Nunnelee would be unavailable, but “I have since found out Sen. Nunnelee did not go to Tupelo, but was in the Jackson area.”
The Legislature has recessed twice to give House and Senate negotiators time to agree on a budget.
The Legislature is working on how to divvy up about $5 billion to fund state government for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
On Tuesday, nationally certified teachers, who receive an annual $6,000 salary supplement, lobbied at the Capitol because of fears the Senate proposal would cut their pay. Nunnelee assured the teachers that they would receive their full supplement.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal