UPDATE: Senate falls short on budget veto override

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Gov. Haley Barbour’s allies hardly had to break a sweat Thursday as the Senate upheld his veto of a bill that proposed restoring more than one-fifth of the budget cuts he has made.

House and Senate negotiators say they’ll start working on another budget restoration bill that has been awaiting their attention for weeks — but it’s unclear whether or when they might reach a compromise.

School administrators and state agency directors are waiting to see if they’ll get any money back before the fiscal year ends June 30. Most programs have been cut nearly 8.7 percent.

“In my judgment, school districts need to plan on their budgets like they are now,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said after Thursday’s debate. “If we’re able to restore any, that will help ease those cuts.”

State revenues are lagging because of the weak economy, and Barbour has cut $458.5 million from what started last July as a nearly $6 billion budget.

The bill he vetoed would have taken $79 million from the state’s financial reserves and plugged the money into a variety of state services, with most going to elementary and secondary education. Barbour, a Republican, said the plan gave too little to prisons.

Barbour’s allies revealed Wednesday that the state is getting $36.8 million in federal stimulus money to offset costs of prescription drugs for certain groups of patients on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the needy. Republicans propose using $14 million to plug holes in this year’s budget, and they said the money doesn’t need to be spent on Medicaid. They want to save the other $22 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Some lawmakers said the unexpected stimulus money was a kind of rabbit-from-the-hat budgetary trick by Barbour.

“He has done this before — finding ‘found’ money at the last minute,” Rep. John Mayo, D-Clarksdale, wrote in an e-mail to friends and constituents.

Before senators even started debating whether to override the governor’s veto on Thursday, Barbour’s staff members were confident they had enough votes to uphold his position. Their head count was correct.

Thirty senators voted to override, but 34 votes were needed. Twenty-one senators sided with Barbour. He’s in his seventh year as governor, and lawmakers still have not reversed any of his vetoes.

Some senators barely glanced up from whatever they were reading — e-mail, newspapers or unrelated bills — during an hour and a half debate that featured the kind of arguments usually guaranteed to prompt indignant responses.

Miss. Senate roll call upholding budget veto

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Senate, on a 30-21 vote, failed Thursday to override Gov. Haley Barbour’s veto of a bill that proposed restoring $79 million of the $458.5 million in budget cuts he has made. An override takes a two-third majority, or in this case 34 votes.

A yes vote was to override the veto, while a no vote was against an override. Voting yes were 26 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Voting no were 21 Republicans.

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Democrats voting yes (26)

Baria, Bay St. Louis; Blount, Jackson; Browning, Pontotoc; Bryan, Amory; Butler, Magnolia; Dawkins, Pass Christian; Dearing, Natchez; Dickerson, Waynesboro; Frazier, Jackson; Gordon, Okolona; Harden, Jackson; Horhn, Jackson; Hyde-Smith, Brookhaven; R. Jackson, Marks; S. Jackson, DeKalb; Jones, Canton; Jordan, Greenwood; E. Lee, Picayune; Montgomery, Bay Springs; Powell, Corinth; Simmons, Cleveland; Stone, Ashland; Tollison, Oxford; Turner, West Point; Walls, Greenville; Wilemon, Belmont.

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Republicans voting yes (4)

Carmichael, Meridian; Gollott, Biloxi; Hudson, Hattiesburg; G. Jackson, French Camp.

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Republicans voting no (21)

Albritton, Picayune; Brown, Columbus; Burton, Newton; Chassaniol, Winona; Clarke, Hollandale; Davis, Hernando; Fillingane, Sumrall; Flowers, Southaven; Hewes, Gulfport; Hopson, Vicksburg; King, Petal; Kirby, Pearl; P. Lee, Mendenhall; McDaniel, Ellisville; Mettetal, Sardis; Michel, Jackson; Moffatt, Gautier; Nunnelee, Tupelo; Ward, Louisville; Watson, Pascagoula; Yancey, Brandon.

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The Senate has one vacancy that will be filled by a March 9 special election runoff.