JLBC approves budget recommendation

JACKSON — The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) approved yesterday its budget recommendation for fiscal year 2011 that, along with Gov. Haley Barbour’s executive budget recommendation, will serve as a starting point for budget writers when lawmakers convene in January.

Like Barbour’s, the JLBC’s outline seeks to cut every eligible program and agency in an effort to save money as state revenue continues to decline.

Unlike Barbour’s plan, the JLBC does not recommend the merger of the state’s three historically black universities or the merger of Mississippi University for Women into Mississippi State.

What it does call for is leaving 3,600 unfilled state government positions vacant, spending $90 million of the state’s rainy day fund, and appropriating 100 percent of available state revenue, instead of using the 2 percent set aside.

It cuts the total education budget by 6 percent, when compared with FY2010, and the total higher education budget by nearly 12 percent. The state’s junior colleges would take an overall cut of 8.4 percent.

House Education Committee chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, estimated that, under the JLBC’s spending guidelines, between 60 and 65 school districts would be unable to make payroll by the time FY2011 ends on June 30, 2011.

“This is the most uncomfortable budget we’ve ever voted on,” said Sen Terry Burton, R-Newton.

About $830 million less is appropriated in the JLBC’s recommendation than state agencies asked for during budget hearings in September.

Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said he was unsure if this budget recommendation would result in layoffs at state agencies.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, and Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, both said they didn’t think it would.

“This is just a blueprint. It’s not written in stone,” said Sen. Jack Gordon, D-Okolona.

Barbour said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon that he was concerned that the JLBC’s recommendation added $145 million in revenue than was in the executive budget recommendation, half of which is one-time money to pay for recurring expenses. The total shortfall for FY11, which includes the loss of stimulus money, is expected to exceed $700 million.

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