Legislature likely heading to more expensive special session

JACKSON — At midnight Wednesday, it is likely that the Mississippi Legislature will by not extending the 2009 session get an additional $20,000 or so per day from the taxpayers.

More than likely the 2009 session will end Wednesday night without the Legislature passing a budget to fund state government. Gov. Haley Barbour will have to call a special session where legislators hopefully will reach a budget agreement before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

A special session costs roughly $20,000 more per day — almost double what it is costing taxpayers for legislators to remain in regular session. By a two-thirds vote of both chambers, the Legislature could remain in regular session.

But it is likely some key Republicans will block that effort because they believe a special session will give their fellow Republican governor more control of the process. Perhaps it will, but ultimately it will be up to the Legislature to pass a budget, and the governor has limited control of that — even in special session. Yes, Barbour can demand they take up legislation to increase a tax on hospitals before they take up the budget.

But if they don’t pass the tax increase he wants, would he be willing to let the clock run out and state government go unfunded?.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, one of the negotiators, says he probably will favor going into special session. He also said the Senate members might vote not to accept their special session pay in an effort to save taxpayer money.

Some might. But all won’t. Plus, there are expenses other than direct legislative pay that make the special session more expensive.There is the simple fact that in special session legislators will have to start the budgeting process from scratch. That will take more time. Time means money. Members are paid for each day they are in Jackson during special session.

But don’t worry. We are only talking about thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.

No big deal.