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There are lots of tough choices ahead for legislators

This past week marked the beginning of the Mississippi legislative session, and the big fight will certainly be about this year’s budget, the $360-million rainy day fund and how to manage both.

The Mississippi House of Representatives sent the first shots across the bow as the House Appropriations Committee passed House Bill 290, approving funding for community colleges and institutions of higher learning relating to program formulation and workforce training.

Funding would cost more than $17 million dollars, which the House intends to take from the state’s rainy day fund.

The entire House eventually voted down the idea for the funds, which were originally cut from the fiscal year 2009 budget by Gov. Haley Barbour.

Barbour cut nearly 2 percent from the $5-billion state budget in December but didn’t touch some big-ticket programs, including Medicaid and the stream of cash that helps public schools meet state standards.

Barbour has been correct so far in his handling of the budget and the rainy day fund. But make no mistake about it, there are more difficult decisions to be made in the next year, and raiding the rainy day fund now might be a rash thought pattern.

There could come a time in the very near future in which the rainy day fund may be needed for much more pressing items.

Considering the state revenues for December were $16.6 million less than the amount collected in December 2007, it would be prudent to hold on to our savings until we really need it.

Barbour said he is evaluating what to do next. State fiscal officials are required by law to cut when revenues fall below a certain amount.

More cutting is likely on the way. So, legislators need to hang on to their hats. There are lots of tough, likely not-so-popular decisions to be made in the next weeks and months.

New feature in the MBJ

As you peruse the pages of this week’s edition of the Mississippi Business Journal, along with lots of coverage about this week’s EXPO, you will find a new feature to enjoy.

“Keeping Our Eye On …” will be a weekly feature spotlighting someone in Mississippi who has made the news for recent accomplishments.

We have always had a section in the MBJ, “People in the News,” that listed weekly accomplishment for business people around the state.

This new feature will choose one person out of that group each week for us to give a little extra coverage to.

We will give a short bio and history in our print edition with a more complete version on our web site at www.msbusiness.com.

Our first “Keeping Our Eye On …” is Amanda Green Alexander, an attorney in Jackson. She is 32 years old and on the rise.

This new feature adds to the weekly Q&A feature we started a few weeks ago. We hope to continue to build on our momentum and add new features to go along with the tried and true product we have had for more than 30 years.

Contact MBJ managing editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com.

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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