House OKs $100M to ease budget cuts

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The state House, being watched by a packed gallery of school superintendents, community college presidents and district attorneys, voted 73-47 margin Tuesday to offset $100 million of the $437 million budget cuts Gov. Haley Barbour has made.
The bill, proposed by the House leadership, would take $50 million out of a $230 million rainy day fund and $50 million out of a $220 million tobacco trust fund to partially restore funds in a variety of areas, including education.
“While we all understand that these are difficult times and government spending must be cut, the House believes that the governor’s cuts present a clear and present danger to public health and safety,” said House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson.
“The departments of Health and Mental Health and the Highway Patrol would be cut to unsustainable levels as hundreds of state employees would lose their jobs. The court system would be clogged to the point of shutting down as prosecutors are laid off.”
House members debated the issue for nearly two hours Tuesday afternoon. Much of that debate centered on a proposed amendment by Rep. Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, not to take any money from the rainy day fund, but to use $50 million from the health care trust fund to support some areas, but not the operations of school districts, community colleges or universities.
The amendment was defeated by essentially the same margin that the proposal of the House leadership passed.
Gunn said that with federal stimulus funds and reserve funds held by local school districts, they would be able to absorb the 8.2 percent cut Barbour has made.
Indicating that Barbour and the Senate would not accept the plan of the House leadership, Gunn said his proposal “was a good faith effort on my part to try to come together on something we can live with. … I am trying to bring a proposal that I believe will fly.”
Barbour praised Gunn’s plan.
Of the House leadership plan, the Republican governor said, “Draining the rainy day fund too soon will put Mississippi in a worse position as this recession slices deeper into our budget. It is irresponsible to fail to plan for the future.”
The bill now goes to the Senate where Appropriations Committee Chair Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, will have several options: try to convince his chamber to invite negotiations with the House leadership on the proposal; accept the House proposal and send it to the governor; or let the House plan die by doing nothing.
Nunnelee refused to even take up an earlier proposal by the House to soften the blow of the gubernatorial cuts.
Nunnelee has passed through the Senate a proposal to give Barbour additional authority to make cuts. The House has rejected that proposal.
The bill would provide $43.4 million for kindergarten-12th-grade education, including funds to offset cuts to the salary supplement for nationally board certified teachers.
Higher education would receive $15.3 million, including $2.5 million to restore money cut from financial aid, while the community colleges would receive $6.8 million.
Under the plan, cuts for K-12 would be reduced from 8.2 percent to 6.4 percent; for the universities and community colleges, they would be reduced from 8.2 to less than 6 percent.
Barbour has cut most agencies 8.2 percent.

Miss. House vote for restoring $100M to budget

JACKSON — The Mississippi House, on a 73-47 vote, approved a bill Tuesday that would restore $100 million of the $437 million in budget cuts made by Gov. Haley Barbour.

A yes vote was a vote for the proposal, while a no vote was a vote against it. Voting yes were 71 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Voting no were 45 Republicans and 2 Democrats.

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Democrats voting yes (71)

Arinder, Morton; Bailey, Greenville; Banks, Jackson; Bell, Fulton; Blackmon, Canton; Bounds, Philadelphia; Broomfield, Moss Point; Brown, Jackson; K. Buck, Holly Springs; K.C. Buck, Jackson; Burnett, Tunica; Calhoun, Jackson; Clark, Pickens; Clarke, Jackson; Cockerham, Magnolia; L. Coleman, Mound Bayou; M. Coleman, Jackson; Compretta, Bay St. Louis; Dedeaux, Perkinston;

Dickson, Macon; Duvall, Mantachie; Eaton, Taylorsville; Ellis, Starkville; Espy, Clarksdale; B. Evans, Monticello; J. Evans, Jackson; Flaggs, Vicksburg; Fredericks, Gulfport; Gadd, Hickory Flat; Gardner, Batesville; Gibbs, West Point; Harrison, Columbus; Hines, Greenville; Holland, Plantersville; Holloway, Hazlehurst; R. Huddleston, Sumner; Johnson, Natchez; B. Jones, Pascagoula; W. Jones, Meridian; Lane, Waynesboro;

Malone, Carthage; Mayo, Clarksdale; McBride, Courtland; McCoy, Rienzi; Middleton, Port Gibson; Moak, Bogue Chitto; Moss, Corinth; Myers, McComb; Nicholson, Little Rock; Norquist, Cleveland; Nowell, Louisville; Parker, Lucedale; Patterson, Biloxi; Peranich, Pass Christian; Perkins, Greenwood; Puckett, Hatley; Reynolds, Charleston; W. Robinson, Bolton; M. Rogers, New Albany; Scott, Laurel;

F. Smith, Carthage; Straughter, Belzoni; Stringer, Montrose; Sullivan, Okolona; Thomas, Indianola; Walley, Leakesville; Ward, Ripley; Warren, Mount Olive; Watson, Hattiesburg; Whittington, Schlater; Wooten, Jackson.

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Republicans voting yes (2)

Bennett, Long Beach; Zuber, Ocean Springs.

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Republicans voting no (45)

Akins, Oxford; Aldridge, Tupelo; L. Baker, Senatobia; M. Baker, Brandon; Barker, Hattiesburg; Bondurant, Grenada; Beckett, Bruce; Byrd, Petal; Campbell, Meridian; Carpenter, Burnsville; Chism, Columbus; Currie, Brookhaven; DeLano, Biloxi; Denny, Jackson; Ellington, Raymond; Fillingane, Sumrall; Formby, Picayune; Frierson, Poplarville; Gipson, Braxton; Guice, Ocean Springs; Gunn, Clinton;

E. Hamilton, Olive Branch; F. Hamilton, Hurley; Howell, Kilmichael; M. Huddleston, Pontotoc; Ishee, Gulfport; Jennings, Southaven; Martinson, Madison; Mayhall, Southaven; McGee, Brandon; Mims, McComb; Monsour, Vicksburg; Moore, Brandon; Morgan, Morgantown; Palazzo, Biloxi; Pigott, Tylertown; Read, Gautier; Reed, Ackerman; R. Rogers, Pearl;

Snowden, Meridian; Staples, Laurel; Turner, Baldwyn; Upshaw, Diamondhead; Weathersby, Florence; Woods, Byhalia.

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Democrats voting no (2)

J. Smith, Columbus; Stevens, West.

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Republican not voting (1)

Horne, Meridian.

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Democrat absent (1)

Shows, Ellisville.