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Legislators approve $5.5B state budget

JACKSON — With an apparent deal in hand on a $5.5-billion state budget, Mississippi lawmakers will be busy the next few days ironing out details with dozens of budget-tied bills expected to move.

Late last night, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant issued a statement that House and Senate negotiators had reached agreement on a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The deal came after Gov. Haley Barbour urged lawmakers to complete work before the regular session’s end, which had been projected for this weekend.

“If it takes a special session, it won’t be the first time,” Barbour had told reporters as he headed into a private meeting earlier yesterday in Bryant’s office at the Capitol.

A special session to deal with the budget, if needed, could cost the state about $30,000 a day.

Barbour called lawmakers back for a budget special session in June 2009, after they failed to agree on a spending plan during that year’s regular session.

“While no budget is perfect and considering these tough economic times facing our state, Senate budget negotiators Doug Davis and Videt Carmichael have tentatively agreed upon a $5.498 billion state budget,” Bryant said in a statement released by his office.

The current three-month regular session is scheduled to end Saturday.

Before the tentative agreement was reached, House budget writers yesterday had signaled that they and their Senate counterparts were having their first substantial discussions in days.

“We want a resolution without a special session,” said House Education Committee chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson.

Bryant said he hopes “personalities don’t interfere with the process” of finishing the budget.

“We’re not about trying to see who blinks first, or we’re not about trying to challenge anyone,” Bryant told The Associated Press before the tentative agreement was reached. “We’re just about trying to get the budget done. I think if we’ll sit down and talk about commonalities, I believe we can get that done.”

Ed LeGrand, executive director of the state Department of Mental Health, and Richard Barry, chairman of the Board of Mental Health, sent Bryant a letter yesterday saying the Senate’s current position on mental health funding would hurt patients.

“I know you are aware of the consequences of not minimally funding the public mental health system,” they wrote. “Without a quick resolution of the situation, the people of Mississippi will have to pay for special legislative sessions. We need a budget now and ask you for your support.”

Source: Associated Press


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