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Barbour hashes it out with business leaders

Gov. Haley Barbour just wrapped a two-hour roundtable with about 30 members of the state’s business community. There bankers, business owners, trade group and association executives and two or three legislators. Barbour had called them all into his Capitol office to get their ideas on how to spur economic development and job creation.

The majority of the time, Barbour said a lot of the things he said earlier today at the MEC’s A Capital Day: no new taxes, job creation is his most important function as the state’s chief executive, state revenue is not recovering anytime soon, and the budget process this session isn’t going to be easy, which is why the lawmakers should grant him the authority to cut the budget by 10 percent instead of only 5 percent without their approval.

What was new was Barbour mentioning the possibility of the state guaranteeing portions (maybe 25 percent) of some small business loans — loans that banks would have made two years ago, but now are stuck because of the credit markets. The state guaranteeing maybe a fourth of the loan’s total might be enough for a bank to go ahead and approve it. Such a plan would be designed to make it easier for small businesses to borrow money. Barbour got mixed reactions from some of the financial folks in the crowd.

Barbour stressed that this proposal was in the very early stages, but did say that he expected an up or down vote on it before the legislative session concludes in late March (or April, May or June). He also said he was “not looking for another beef plant” and that the risk to taxpayers’ money had to be weighed carefully, and duplication of existing U.S. Small Business Administration programs had to be avoided.

This will certainly be something to watch as the session moves forward. I’ll be anxious to see how some key lawmakers receive this news. For now, though, the temperature is dropping and there’s rain on the streets. Time to head home. See you tomorrow.