Lunch meeting defines budget differences

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – House Appropriations Chairman Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, said the lunch he shared with Gov. Haley Barbour and other legislative leaders Wednesday was difficult for him to digest.
Stringer said the governor told him during the lunch meeting that he wanted House and Senate budget leaders to cut an additional $77 million from the budget, primarily from education and from mental health.
“I will compromise, but I will not go as far as the $77 million the governor is proposing,” Stringer said. “It would just be a tax increase on the local level. He is just for shifting taxes to the local people.”
Stringer said that by cutting education and the homestead exemption reimbursement to the local governments, local governments would have to raise property taxes to offset the loss of state funds.
Barbour met with Stringer and other House and Senate budget leaders to discuss the budget as the Saturday deadline approaches for legislative leaders to reach an agreement.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Doug Davis, R-Hernando, said he thought the lunch meeting was productive.
“The House and some members of the Senate want to spend more than the governor and I want to spend,” Davis said. The key, he said, is finding areas to compromise.
Barbour has said that he opposes what Davis and Stringer have agreed to in preliminary talks because it spends too much and does not leaves enough funds in reserve.
“The House leadership now wants to spend more than $500 million in non-recurring revenue, money that won’t be there to spend the next year,” Barbour said. “I’ve asked them to reduce that overspending by $77 million.”
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@journalinc.com.