Magnolia Marketplace has finally gotten over some sort of hybrid flu/weird sickness menace that has kept us out of the office this week.
The first day back has been eventful.
To recap: Gov. Haley Barbour said earlier this week that if the House did not pass the bill sent by the Senate that would extend Barbour’s budget-cutting authority from 5 percent to 10 percent, and allow him flexibility as far as which agencies got cut, that he would cut the fiscal year 2010 budget this week to balance it in the middle of spiraling state revenue. He apparently wasn’t kidding.
Barbour just wrapped a press conference in which he announced he’s ordering that the FY2010 budget be cut an additional 3.1 percent across the board, on top of the 5 percent in cuts he’s made since the budget year started last July.
So every agency and department has been cut by 8.1 percent, for a total of $437 million. Exempt from those cuts are things like debt service, court-ordered settlement and — Magnolia Marketplace did not know this until today — the Legislature. When lawmakers passed the law that spelled out who was and wasn’t exempt from budget cuts, they included themselves in the “exempt” category.
The big ticket items broke down like this as far as total cuts for FY2010.
Mississippi Adequate Education Program: $170 million
Higher Education: $54 million
Community and Junior Colleges: $20.5
Corrections: $26.5 million
Barbour said Corrections could absorb the cuts without the release of the much-talked-about 3,500 to 4,000 prisoners, but that shifting inmate populations to community work centers and away from the state prisons, and the shifting of some discretionary stimulus money, would be necessary to make that happen.
“But I can’t guarantee that zero will be released, either,” Barbour said.
When asked if the latest cuts would result in state workers losing their jobs, Barbour replied, “Yes.”
Barbour also reiterated his long-held stance that the state’s rainy day fund has to last another couple years and that next two budget years will feature “enormous losses” in revenue as stimulus money disappears.
As for this year, “I cannot guarantee that this is where the cuts will end,” Barbour said.
UPDATED AT 12:20 P.M. : Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, just released a statement regarding today’s budget news. “I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but I predict a great hue and cry will come down on those whom Mississippians feel are responsible for unnecessarily gutting funds and placing jobs in peril when a better alternative exists,” McCoy said, referencing the House plan that would have spent additional money from the rainy day fund and the governor’s discretionary stimulus fund.”
McCoy compared Barbour’s move today to Sherman’s March to the Sea, in which he torched every city, town and hamlet he came across. “We know how about how long it took to recover from that,” McCoy said.