Water back, governor speech next

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – With the water back on in the state Capitol, Gov. Haley Barbour is set to finally give his State of the State speech to the 2010 Legislature.
The speech was postponed twice last week because of multiple water line breaks in Jackson caused by the unusually long period of subfreezing weather.
Barbour will deliver the speech from the House chamber during a joint legislative session beginning at 6 p.m. Monday. It will be aired on public television and radio.
“He writes his own speeches,” said spokesman Dan Turner. “We haven’t even seen it yet. My guess is that it will be budget-dominated.”
The state is facing budget woes caused by a historic downturn in state tax collections. The Legislature and the governor are looking at how to deal with a shortfall of as much as $400 million for the current year and perhaps $700 million or more each of the following two years.
The governor has made some dramatic proposals, such as consolidating school districts, merging universities and closing mental health hospitals. Legislators said they will be listening for more details from the governor.
“I hope he has some solutions everyone can agree on,” said Rep. Brian Aldridge, R-Tupelo. “Right now I see a stalemate – not so much between Republicans and Democrats, but lawmakers in general on shutting down mental health hospitals.
“I hope to hear more details. That is not a criticism. I just would like to hear more details on proposed policy changes.”
One of the mental health hospitals the governor has proposed closing is in Tupelo.
Rep. Jack Gadd, D-Hickory Flat, said jokingly, “I would hope he would have all the solutions.” But then added on a more serious note, “I would hope he would give us something we could all agree with and work together on.”
Rep. Mark DuVall, D-Mantachie, said he hopes the governor focuses on economic development.
“I want to hear realistic solutions to bring Mississippi to recovery … anything from an economic development perspective. Hopefully, he will talk about bonds to stimulate the economy and bring some jobs,” DuVall said.
He said he wants to hear plans to spur highway construction, especially on Mississippi Highway 25 in his area.
Both Sens. J.P. Wilemon, D-Belmont, and Gary Jackson, R-French Camp, said they do not want to hear anything specific.
“I just hope the cuts don’t affect education, but I know we are short of money,” Wilemon said.
Jackson said, “I don’t know anything we can hear that we haven’t heard already. We just have to get down to business – have some serious analysis and look at cutting budgets.”