Key Senate vote expected today on budget restorations

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – A pivotal vote is expected this morning in the state Senate on a proposal that will determine how much money will be restored to the state’s reduced budget.
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who presides over the Senate, said Appropriations Chair Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, will probably ask the Senate today to continue negotiations with the House on how much money should be restored.
Barbour has cut $458.5 million, including $285.3 million from education, because tax collections have not met projections.
A group of senators, including many from Northeast Mississippi, are expected to ask the Senate not to accept Nunnelee’s motion to go to conference. Instead, they want to send to the governor a House proposal that offsets $67 million of the cuts, including $50.6 million to education from the kindergarten to the university level.
Bryant said he favors additional negotiations.
“Quite honestly, we have to get a bill the governor might sign,” Bryant said Wednesday afternoon. “It won’t help anybody if he won’t sign it into law.”
The Senate has yet to override a Barbour veto during his tenure, which is in its seventh year.
Barbour has been reluctant to touch the state’s $500 million in reserve funds to replenish the budget this fiscal year, though in recent weeks he and his backers have relented.
Nunnelee has agreed to use $58 million in reserve funds to restore part of the budget and to plug deficits that the Legislature did not deal with in 2009.
The House originally voted to take $100 million out of reserve funds to offset the cuts. But the House proposal that goes before the Senate today uses $79 million for the same purpose that Nunnelee’s proposal does.
In the 122-member House, all of the Democrats and well over half the Republicans voted for the proposal to take the $79 million. But the governor has been meeting feverishly with senators to get enough votes to send it to conference.
Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said the House plan is the better route.
“There will never be another opportunity this (fiscal) year to help out the public schools and other vital services as much as this does,” he said.

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.