JACKSON — At a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Haley Barbour said if House and Senate negotiators can not reach an agreement on the state’s budget by Wednesday when legislators return to the Capitol, he will call a special session only when an accord has been struck or when one is eminent.
The twice-extended 2009 regular session is scheduled to conclude Wednesday. Conferees remain at the Capitol in an effort to reach a consensus by then.
“I’m not going to make the legislators come down here and sit around and twiddle their thumbs and waste the taxpayers’ money, as has been the case the last two months (while budget negotiations stalled),” Barbour said.
Barbour spent the majority of the 30-minute Q&A with reporters pointing to his executive budget recommendation’s funding of the state’s education budget at almost $200 million more than it has ever been funded.
Barbour seemed frustrated that some Democratic members of the House were not aware of his education funding recommendation. For fiscal year 2009, which ends in 30 days, Mississippi’s K-12 education system received $2.438 billion. Barbour’s recommendation for FY2010 calls for just shy of $2.7 billion, representing an increase of 10.5 percent aided by $200 million in stimulus money and other government grants.
“This is literally an increase of $196 million more than our public schools have ever received in the past,” Barbour said.
While education funding has become a thorny issue in budget negotiations — House leadership’s number is about $45 million more than Barbour’s — it is has not reached the level of the hospital tax to fund Medicaid or the possibility of carrying forward about $60 million in stimulus dollars to fiscal year 2011.
The 2009 session resumes Wednesday at 1 p.m.