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Barbour speaks from across the world

November 10th, 2009 No comments

Gov. Haley Barbour just finished a conference call with reporters, but the big news is where he was sitting while he was speaking: Baghdad.

Barbour was in Iraq visiting soldiers in the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Armored Brigade as part of a Veterans Day excursion. He couldn’t divulge many details of his trip, per Defense Department Policy.

Anyway, Barbour’s executive budget recommendation is due to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee Monday, the particulars of which dominated much of the 25-minute chat.

Barbour said last week that an additional $200 million in cuts would be necessary to FY10’s budget because of declining tax revenue. Barbour trimmed $172 million — mostly from education — from the budget in September.

“This budget recommendation will be anything but business as usual,” said Barbour, reciting a line he has used often when describing the state’s fiscal situation. “It will include some dramatic ways to restructure (state agencies and government) but it will not be Draconian. We’re not gutting anything. We are going to push very hard to be sure we’re spending on our priorities.”

Barbour did not provide any specifics, but did offer that some of the things he will propose will not save a huge amount of money until FY12, which starts July 1, 2011.

The state’s revenue estimating group told members of the JLBC last week that FY10’s total shortfall will reach $370 million, which is about $20 million more than Barbour’s high-end estimate he made in announcing the September cuts.

Barbour predicted, based on information from the revenue estimating group, that FY11’s total shortfall could exceed $700 million, which is why his budget recommendation due Monday will be a financial shell of those he’s presented in the past, he said. Contributing mightily to that deficit is the state’s Medicaid program, which will lose $200 million starting Jan. 1, 2011, in a combination of decreased federal match money and increased costs. Several hundred million dollars’ worth of stimulus money will also be gone by then.

“We may have to find another $500 million to $600 million in 2012 over and above what we have to find for this year and for FY11,” Barbour said. “We’re going to have to make more big savings (in FY12) even if revenue keeps dropping,” Barbour said.

On a lighter note, Barbour spoke at length about some of the soldiers he’s rubbed elbows with since he arrived in Iraq earlier this week after visiting with wounded Mississippi soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital Monday in Washington.

“This warrior mentality that they have is so strong and when one compares it to the liberal media elite or some people in Washington, it has a very powerful effect on me to see these very brave, very strong, very good people,” he said.

Categories: Haley Barbour, News, Politics, State revenue Tags:

Party switching, number crunching (and special sessioning?)

November 5th, 2009 No comments

After the press conference where seven Simpson County politicos announced that they preferred Elephants to Donkeys, Magnolia Marketplace and a few other media outlets got a few minutes to ask Gov. Haley Barbour some questions.

I’m sure he was thrilled.

Anyway, Barbour reported nothing new about the will-there-or-won’t-there surrounding the special session to deal with incentives for an advanced manufacturing company, presumably a German maker of steel pipes, to build a $300 million facility and create 500 jobs in the Delta, presumably Tunica County.

Barbour did not reveal the name of the company. He did say that it was dealing with “an external issue” that was not related to the agreement between it and the state. He did not elaborate.

“They’re making progress,” he said of the company. “We’re not going to call a special session until that’s fully resolved. I don’t see any problem. I don’t think it’s going to be very long.”

With October’s revenue almost 7 percent below estimates, Barbour will be forced to cut the FY10 budget a second time pretty soon. He is meeting with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee this afternoon, where the JLBC is expected to present a revenue estimate for the remainder of FY10, which ends June 30, 2010.

“There’s no question in my mind that we’re going to need at least $200 million more in reductions in spending this fiscal year,” said Barbour, who cut $172 million from the budget in September.

Making that an even more difficult task, Barbour said, is the state law that says no agency’s budget can be cut more than 5 percent until every agency has been cut at least 5 percent.

“We will continue to have to make significant cuts.”

Budgets notwithstanding, this has been a pretty good week for Barbour. He’s the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and the GOP won two pretty important gubernatorial races Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey. President Barack Obama carried both those states – New Jersey by 15 percent – last November.

Barbour compared Tuesday’s elections to those of 1993, in which New Jersey and Virginia both elected GOP chief executives. Those races, Barbour said today, served as a springboard to the 1994 Contract with America, in which Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Barbour was chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time.

“In the same way, I believe these elections the day before yesterday, where Republicans won and won handily, shows that the American people are not happy with the policies that (Obama’s) administration is pursuing,” Barbour said. “They think there’s too much spending and too much debt.”

Speaking of presidential politics, a reporter from a Jackson television station asked Barbour if he harbored any plans to run for president in 2012, a question Barbour gets often. He responded that he was focused on next year’s Congressional races, in which Republicans will try to party like it’s 1994.

When the reporter pressed him on his gameplan as far as running for the White House, Barbour said he “had no plan to,” which is a long way from slamming the door on the possibility.


State GOP Chairman confirms seven Democrats switching parties

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

Statewide radio host Paul Gallo has mentioned once or twice this week that there was a possibility a handful of Mississippi Democrats were on the verge of becoming Republicans.

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Brad White just confirmed it to Magnolia Marketplace. Seven current Democrats, White said, will be former Democrats Thursday morning. White did not provide names.

“Some are from multi-county districts and some are from the local level,” White said.

A press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Mississippi GOP headquarters, located at the corner of Yazoo and Congress streets in Jackson.

Magnolia Marketplace will be there and will have the particulars as soon as it’s over.

Categories: News, Politics Tags:

Special session may be off for good

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

Rumors are swirling this morning that the German manufacturer of steel pipes that wants to build a $300 million facility, and create 500 jobs, in Tunica is having trouble securing financing.

Separate sources in the House and Senate have said it was their understanding that there would be no special session any time soon, if ever, to deal with incentives for the company, whose name has not been officially released by Gov. Haley Barbour’s office. Barbour announced two weeks ago that there would be a special session last week but those plans were put on hold. Barbour said in announcing the postponement that the hang-up was not related to the deal between the company and the state.

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner had no comment this morning.

Jones: Tuition hike needed to offset budget cuts

November 2nd, 2009 1 comment

Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones told a crowd of about 100 people at today’s Stennis Capitol Press Corps luncheon in Jackson that a “modest tuition increase” will be necessary to make up for cuts in state funds.

If not, Mississippi’s higher education system would be “devastated,” Jones said, and would lead to the elimination of personnel and programs. He did not offer any specific percentage an increase would have to reach to be effective, but said he and financial officials would start crunching numbers in the next couple weeks.

Jones’ assertion is the clearest acknowledgement yet that the shortfall in state money will have to be made up with an increase in tuition. Higher Education Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds told lawmakers during budget hearings in September that tuition hikes were a possibility, but not a guarantee.

Raising tuition is one of two ways Ole Miss will have to raise revenue, Jones said, with the other being an increase in enrollment.

“There’s going to be less (state) money to spend,” Jones said.

October’s revenue collection were 6.66 percent, or $27.8 million, under estimates made as the Legislature wrapped up the 2009 session at the end of June. For the first four months of fiscal year 2010, revenue is $105.2 million, or 7.42 percent, below estimates.

Gov. Haley Barbour has already cut the budget of education, including colleges and universities, by 5 percent, trimming $172.9 million in September. Last month Barbour told state agency heads to prioritize their programs in anticipation of an across-the-board cut of 7 percent.

Jones said revenue generated from a tuition increase would decrease the likelihood of eliminating programs and personnel, and would also keep stable Ole Miss’ need-based financial aid for students.

“We can’t limit access (to higher education) based on a family’s finances,” he said.

Categories: News Tags:

No special session this week? (Updated)

October 28th, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace just got off the phone with one lawmaker who doesn’t plan to be in Jackson Friday for a special session to deal with a manufacturer who plans to build a facility in the Delta. According to speculation, a German maker of steel pipes would like to build a $300 million plant in Tunica, creating 500 jobs.

Gov. Haley Barbour announced last week at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob that he would call legislators to Jackson this week to offer the company a state-backed incentive package. Barbour has said state incentives would represent no more than 10 percent of the total cost of the project.

“That is correct,” said one lawmaker, who requested anonymity, when asked if the special session had been delayed. “The deal isn’t dead. They’re still trying to make it work, but it won’t be in time for anything to happen this week.” The lawmaker added the hold-up did not originate from the state or county level, but from the company.

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner would not comment.

Updated at 12:03 p.m. : A source who had just been briefed on the situation said it was a “coin flip” as to whether there would be a special session Friday.

Updated again at 1:12 p.m. : Barbour has just released a statement confirming that there will be no special session this week. In the statement, Barbour said the issue was not between the state and the company. Here is the full text of his statement:

The Special Session planned for Friday, October 30, has been postponed due to a technical issue unrelated to the proposed agreement between the company and the State.

“The company needs additional time to complete its preparations for executing the project, and we expect to call the Legislature in for a brief Special Session as soon as these preparations are complete.

“It is this Administration’s policy not to present projects to the Legislature until all details are finalized, even if the unresolved point is not between the company and the state.”

Natchez man offers solution to serious tailgating problem

October 23rd, 2009 1 comment

If you’ve ever had a tailgate marred by exhaustion from lugging coolers and chairs through the Grove searching for one tent among thousands that look the same, Zach Jex is here to help.

Jex, a 28-year-old attorney in Natchez, launched www.gamedaymap.com last Friday, a Web site that pinpoints tailgates anywhere on the Ole Miss campus.

Jex, who earned an undergraduate degree and a J.D. from Ole Miss, created Gameday Map out of necessity.

“We drive four hours there and you only have a couple of hours to meet up with whatever friends from college and their parents,” Jex said. “You just don’t want to spend that much time looking for them.”

Tagging a tailgate on the site’s map application is free and easy. After a quick registration, drag the tent icon to your location on the map. Give a rundown of the crowd, what there is to eat and drink, and you have a Web page devoted to your tailgate. Anybody who needs to can point their browser to Gameday Map and find you.

“It’s a pretty simple process,” Jex said.

Jex started working on the site about two months ago. He used a freelance Web site to hook up with developers in India to build it.

Getting Gameday Map up and running before the start of football season was important, Jex said, due to interest in the site likely to decline sharply once the season ends.

Although he missed the first two home games against Southeastern Louisiana and Alabama, Jex believes five games’ worth of data will provide a good look at the site’s viability. Including Arkansas tomorrow, the Rebels still face Northern Arizona, Tennessee and LSU in Oxford.

The first round of numbers look promising. Four days after it launched, Gameday Map had 5,565 page views, with each visitor flipping through an average of four pages. Thirty-seven tailgates had been tagged as of Friday morning.

“Way beyond what I thought,” is how Jex described the initial response. “Only about 10 percent of people who have done it are people I know. So it’s not just my friends signing up.”

Like it does for the sanity of Ole Miss fans, this football season carries a lot of weight for Jex and his site. He has already approached the Mississippi Technology Alliance about setting him up with investors. If this season goes well, Jex hopes to raise enough capital to add other campuses. “We’d like to do the entire SEC and then move to every college that wants it,” he said.

Special session on the way?

October 20th, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace has had a hard time getting anybody in state government to acknowledge the existence of GreenTech Automotive, the hybrid car manufacturer that has plans to build a facility in Tunica. Getting a comment on the record, to this point, has been impossible.

That trend continued this afternoon. There have been whispers the past few days that there was a special session in the works whose call would include GreenTech. Dan Turner, spokesman for Gov. Haley Barbour, said he had heard of some “discussions” regarding a special session but would not confirm or deny whether the agenda, which Barbour would control, would include GreenTech. For that matter, Turner did not confirm or deny there would even be a special session.

“There’s just not much I can tell you,” he said.

So that’s where we are. Magnolia Marketplace will be at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob tomorrow. Barbour is scheduled to speak. We’ll ask him about it then.

More layoffs at Viking Range

October 19th, 2009 4 comments

The Viking Classic tees off next week at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, an event that brings a lot of positive exposure to Greenwood-based Viking Range.

That’s about the extent of the good news, though. The Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper reported in its Friday edition that Viking has laid off 30 more workers in an effort to cut costs. The company has been hit pretty hard by the downturn in new housing construction.

Overall, the Commonwealth reports, Viking has cut 327 jobs, or about 23 percent of its total workforce, since April 2008. This will add to Leflore County’s already bleak unemployment situation. In August, the latest month for which figures are available, 12.2 percent of the county’s population did not hold a job.

For the full story, click here.

Categories: Manufacturing, News, Viking Range Tags:

Hudson Holliday lays out his platform

October 16th, 2009 No comments

First-term Pearl River County District 3 Supervisor Hudson Holliday retired from the Mississippi Army National Guard in 2004 as a one-star general.

His campaign for the Republican nomination for governor is less than a week old, but he’s already bringing a military style to it. It could be summed up in three words.

Ready.

“I feel compelled to do it,” Holliday said.

Aim.

“I really do think that people are fed up with professional politicians,” he continued.

Fire.

“Phil Bryant was a deputy sheriff (before serving in the Legislature and then being appointed to the State Auditor’s office). What does he know? He’s never created the first job. He has never hired anybody. He’s never paid workman’s comp insurance on anybody. He’s never had to deal with withholdings or regulations. Now he’s been in Jackson (for several years). He’s just moved up that political ladder. What does he know about that contractor that’s out there in the mud trying to build a building? He’s never been there.”

Then Holliday reloaded.

“What in the world does Tate Reeves know about what’s going on out in the (rural areas)? He’s a bean counter. Did he ever serve in the military?”

Spokespersons for Bryant and Reeves did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Holliday’s campaign will attempt to draw a contrast between him and Bryant, the lieutenant governor who has said he will seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2011; and Reeves, the Republican state treasurer who has not committed one way or the other as far as 2011 goes but is thought to a strong possibility for the governor’s race.

In about a 22-minute conversation with Magnolia Marketplace this morning, Holliday touted his experience in the small business world. His background is diverse. He has owned and operated a construction company, developed subdivisions as a homebuilder, established a crop-dusting service, farmed and run a timber-cutting business.

He also served as a deputy sheriff under his brother, the former sheriff of Pearl River County.

“There’s not a whole lot that goes on in Mississippi that I don’t understand,” Holliday, 65, said. “I’ll just be honest with you, I’m tired. I’m tired of us leaving our future up to professional politicians that too often, not all of them, are more concerned about their future than they are ours. They’re just looking for the next ladder to climb instead of making hard decisions.”

Holliday said he’s mulled over the idea of running for governor for about six months. He will run as a Republican, he said, but he’s “not proud of either one of the parties. I think they’re the downfall of this country, to tell you the truth. I’m not sure a Democrat could be elected in a governor’s race.

“I believe good government suffers when good people don’t get involved. I’m going to get involved. I’m not going to sit at the house and complain about the way things are when I know I can do something about it.”

Holliday was elected to his current post last year. It was the first time he had jumped into the political arena. He realizes that name recognition and fundraising ability will be major issues against opponents who have plenty of both.

He’s depending on his time in the military to spread the word about his candidacy.

“When I was in the Guard, I had units from Southaven to Pascagoula, from West Point to Vicksburg, all those units reported to me,” Holliday said. “They know who I am. The Guard won’t elect you, but it is a seed source that I can expand to just about every community in this state. I assure you the Guard will be behind me 100 percent. That opens doors for me to come into North Mississippi.”

Magnolia Marketplace was unable to confirm Holliday’s assertion that he is the first sitting county supervisor to seek the governor’s office. He hopes his experience with the ground level of politics will gain him the support of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors.

“That’s the political leaders in every county,” he said. “The majority of supervisors are Democrat. If I could get through the Republican nomination I will pick up a lot of the Democratic supervisors. They realize that I understand the problems that they face.”

The role of governor, Holliday believes, should be built around two things: Developing a vision for the state and providing the leadership to get there. If the state were a group of folks walking through the woods in the dark, he said, the governor should be the one holding a flashlight.

“You’re destined to look where the guy that has the flashlight is shining the light. His job is to lead us out of the woods and onto the highway of prosperity.”

An antique car enthusiast, Holliday is already rebuilding a 1942 International pickup and plans to outfit it with campaign billboards in time to drive it across the state visiting coffee shops, cafes, truck stops and restaurants and community festivals.

“I’m never gonna have the money Phil Bryant and those guys are going to have,” Holliday said. “It’s going to be a battle but I think people are hungry. I’m one of us. That’s the message.”