Well, I suppose there's no graceful way to say it. We closed out the session a few minutes ago as the clock struck midnight, without a budget of course. One conferee walked up the aisle in the final minutes and joked, "We have a deal. We're all going home."
To say that it's been a frustrating experience would be the understatement of the year. Three attempts to extend the session today missed by 7, 4 and 5 votes, respectively. While we all have our own positions, I thought not extending the session was a mistake because that means we'll start at square one in the budgeting process in a special session. Which means we'll repeat going through the steps of House committee, House floor, Senate committee, Senate floor just to get back in conference where we are now. And who knows if we'll have an agreement in principle even when the Governor calls us back?
But in the end, both sides (those for an against extending the session) could probably agree on one thing. Conferees had over two months to get it figured out. Mississippians should be angry. It's a flaw in the legislative process- none of us voted on a single conference report in the last week and a half for the budget, essentially because six folks (nine if you want to throw in the Speaker, Lt. Governor and Governor) couldn't come to an agreement. While I'm all for holding out for things that affect your district (such as taking care of our university, FGH and Wesley, school districts, etc.), in the end, if you can't make a joint decision and stick by it, does anyone really win?
Meanwhile, with its inaction, the legislature continues to spread fear and uncertainty to our schools and hospitals, because no one knows how to make their budgets for next fiscal year.
Stay tuned. I'm sure we'll be back in the next week or so. The big question is- we'll we be in this same position, waiting for a deal to be struck near midnight on June 30 before the fiscal year runs out, all because we can't communicate, make decisions and stick by them?