Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Losing Streak Is Over

So for the first time in 18 months, Mississippi has met its revenue projection. Signs looked good a couple of weeks ago when state economist Dr. Phil Pepper noted that we were 15% above 2009's revenue halfway thru March. This was confirmed by the State Tax Commission today when Mississippi met its revenue projection. We're even expected to go .3% above the projection.

Hopefully, this will start a trend and show that we've bottomed out and are coming out of this recession, albeit ever so slowly.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hattiesburg Residents Visit Capitol

On Thursday, Senator Billy Hudson and I were honored to host several ladies from the Hattiesburg area for a visit to the Capitol. Mrs. Lillian Breland, Mrs. Barbara Curry and Mrs. Gay Hanberry were among the guests.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Revenue Agreement Reached - and the love fest ensues...

Today, the standoff in the House on the first major part of the budget (the revenue part), ended in an agreement between House Republicans, House Democrats and the Senate. We will recess the session until April 20, but an agreement has been reached on how much money we're going to spend for fiscal year.

The only reason we're waiting on April 20 now is to see if the Medicaid portion of the stimulus plan is passed on the federal level. This would create up to an addition $187 million.

It's funny when an agreement is reached. After days of sharp disagreement and sometimes harsh debate, once an agreement is reached, all of that is forgotten and legislators laud each other over and over again.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Budget Committee Lowers FY 10, FY 11 Budget Estimate

Based on the recommendations of state economist Dr. Phil Pepper, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee adjusted its revenue projections for both FY 2010 and FY 2011.

FY 2010's revenue estimate was adjusted down $119.4 million to $4.432 billion.

FY 2011's revenue estimate was adjusted down $112.9 million to $4.45 billion.

Adjusting FY 2010's revenue estimate down means the Governor will be forced to make further cuts to balance the rest of this year's budget.

However, Pepper did report a glimmer of good news. March's revenue collections thus far are 15% above where they were at this point in March last year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

House Commends The University of Southern Mississippi On 100 Years

100 years ago today, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed HB 204, which established Mississippi Normal College. The bill passed the Senate a week later and on March 30, 1910, Governor Edmond F. Noel signed the new college into law (with no appropriation- it seems we were doing unfunded mandates back then as well).

Today, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed HR 67, a resolution commending The University of Southern Mississippi on its first century of existence. Out of the several resolutions I've written over my my first three years in the Legislature, this proved to be the most enjoyable. Many thanks to Rules Committee Chairman Joe Warren (D-Mount Olive) for working with me on the timing of taking up the bill, as well as the McCain Library Archives for much of the information that went into the resolution. To read HR 67, you can click here.

Pictured above are all of the Mississippi House members (and one of our clerks) who either graduated or attended Southern Miss (except the Speaker, whose parents both attended when the university was known as the State Teachers College).

New Revenue Estimate Due Out Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 9 a.m., a new revenue estimate will be released for FY 2011. This is one of the last reports House and Senate budget conferees wait for before beginning final budget negotiations. However, based on how "projections" have played out in the last couple of years, it might be wise to base revenue estimates on something more realistic and proven.

I've spoken to one of the House budget conferees, and they expect the revenue estimate to be pretty dismal, projecting even less money than originally thought.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Welcome Back Bobby

While we were in session Thursday, the doors opened on one side of the Chamber and a site arose that caused the entire House to stand to its feet and applaud for several minutes. Rep. Bobby Shows (D-Jones County) arrived back at the Capitol Thursday morning after a long lay-off following heart surgery in late January. Bobby sits on the next aisle over from me but on the same row. When debates get long-winded, we can always count on Bobby to press for a vote from his desk.

It shows once again, that despite seemingly endless rancor and discord, that the House is still one big fraternity. Even though we have differences, folks still care about each other. And in the kind of season we're in, it helps take out some of the tension.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

FY 2010 Budget Passes

The Mississippi Senate passed SB 2495 47-0.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi House passed SB 2495 112-3 on the other end of the Capitol.

SB 2495 was a compromise on deficit appropriations to help state agencies make it through the remainder of the fiscal year. It now heads to the Governor.

Agreement Reached on FY 2010 Budget

Last night, the Mississippi Legislature achieved some resolution on the fiscal year 2010 budget. While more cuts appear likely unless the economy dramatically turns around in the next month or so, SB 2495 makes deficit appropriations to several state agencies.

After nearly a two-month long back and forth between the House and Senate, along with a failed attempt to override the Governor's veto on SB 2688, the conferees for SB 2495 agreed to terms late yesterday, with the Governor in reluctant agreement.

I expect we'll vote on the bill first thing this morning.

The agreement isn't perfect. There's no money for IHL, even though the Governor agreed to give $4.4 million of stimulus money to community and junior colleges. This is very disheartening to me, and I'm sure it's disheartening to the entire Southern Miss community, where huge budget shortfalls are putting jobs and programs in potential jeopardy.

Here's how most of the money would break down:

MAEP for FY 2010 - $33.9 million (same amount as was in SB 2688)
National Board Certification - $2 million
IHL - $0
IHL Financial Aid - $0
Dept. of Mental Health - $4 million
Dept. of Corrections - $16 million
District Attorneys - $1.4 million
Highway Patrol - $1.76 million
Veterans Affairs - $1.1 million

The $82 million package came from the Health Care Expendable Fund (Tobacco Trust Fund), Public Service Commission, MAEP carry-over and Medicaid Clawback Credits.