Barbour, business and budgets

Gov. Haley Barbour will sit down with some of the state’s business leaders Thursday afternoon at 1 to discuss economic development, job creation, what needs to happen in the legislative session to spur each of those things, and the state’s budget.

The meeting is open to the media, so Magnolia Marketplace will be there. We’ll have the details as soon as it wraps.

Also, Treasurer Tate Reeves just issued a press release that deals with the budget, and like every budget item the past few months, the news is less than rosy.

The budget for fiscal year 2011, which lawmakers will adopt before adjourning the session in March (or April or May or June), was already expected to have a deficit exceeding $700 billion. Reeves said today that, because an annual payment from tobacco companies based on tobacco usage nationally is some $8 million less than what it was last year, the deficit will be even larger.

Barbour’s executive budget recommendation and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee’s plan counted on plugging some of the holes with $115 million from the Health Care Expendable Fund. Problem is, the HCEF got nearly $118 million from tobacco companies last December; this December, the state got only $109.7 million.

So just add that to the pile of things lawmakers will have to work around when dealing with the budget this session. Pretty soon, the pile will be as big (and just as smelly) as one you’d find in a cow pasture.

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