SOME AG WORKERS MAY GET CALL BACK

CATEGORY: Legislature

AUTHOR: AP

SOME AG WORKERS MAY GET CALL BACK

By JACK ELLIOTT JR.

Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) Extra spending authority being given the state Department of Agriculture and Commerce means a few of the 143 furloughed workers may be called back, agency officials said Monday.

The furloughs began Monday, the same day lawmakers sent Gov. Kirk Fordice a bill that gives Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell Jr. some leeway in his spending.

Spell is trying to deal with a $1.2 million deficit, the two-thirds of the agency’s budget that was spent in the six months before he took office in January.

The $6.4 million compromise would let Spell immediately spend $1.3 million out of the 1997 budget in the present year. The 1997 budget year begins July 1.

Bob Lyle, general counsel for department, said Monday that how many furloughed workers will be called back depends on once we finally know what money we have and when we can get it.”

Lyle said the budget is less than what agriculture officials requested and that would impact the number of workers called back.

He said workers in regulatory programs will be called back first.

We will start bringing some of these employees back on a priority basis. There is no question there will be down-sizing in the agency. Obviously, the 143 people, the commissioner cannot tell them they are all coming back … not all of them will come back,” Lyle said.

Lyle said Spell does not intend to repeatedly put jobs in jeopardy because of budget problems. Spell has a reorganization study under way and has vowed to keep the agency in the black.

The Senate gave approval Monday to a $1.034 billion appropriations for paying Mississippi’s elementary and secondary school teachers and providing funds for operation of the public schools. The House has already acted on the bill.

The House gave final approval to a $485 million appropriation for state universities. The Senate passed it Sunday. The money includes $2.9 million to improve the state’s predominantly black universities and recruit more white students there, as ordered last year by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers in the state’s ongoing university desegregation case.

The House and Senate approved a $15 million bond issue for campus and security improvements at Jackson State. That issue also was addressed in Bigger’s decision.

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