Legislators contemplate budget compromise

GUNN

GUNN

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Legislative leaders met behind closed doors Thursday trying to reach a budget compromise that has a Saturday night deadline.

At one point Thursday, there was hope that negotiators could hammer out a final compromise on Thursday or today and present it to the House and Senate chambers Saturday for final approval.

But late Thursday, that agreement had not been reached.

“They are still talking,” Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said of House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, and his Senate counterpart, Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale.

The budget deal must be approved by the two chambers by Monday night.

Caught up in the work on the budget is the size of a proposed pay raise for teachers and whether to provide additional funds to local school districts.

As the session winds down, negotiations are underway on other key items, such as bonds to finance long-term construction projects. Included in the bond negotiations is consideration of a proposal to provide $18 million to Cooper Tire in Tupelo to lure the company to spend $140 million on modernization to ensure the plant remains viable.

Other measures where House and Senate leaders are negotiating have the potential to take tens of millions of dollars out of the state general fund, such as proposals that some say would make it more difficult for the Department of Revenue to collect taxes from out-of-state companies that do business in Mississippi.

In addition, there are other key items that must be dealt with before the scheduled end of the session in early April. Those other items include whether to provide $6,000 to parents of public education students so they can pursue private education options.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com