Legislative Preview

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Having their work cut out for them is an understatement as the Legislature reconvenes. At this point the possible budget deficit and the proposed spending could be as much as $1 billion more than the projected available money.

Officials say a vote could come in the first couple of weeks on Medicaid. Leading legislators want to restore benefits to 50,000 poor, disabled and elderly patients who had been scheduled to be cut from the program. However, the big question is how to pay for the coverage.

"This is the worst," says Rep. Johnny Stringer. "If we still raise revenue, there's still going to be deep cuts. We can't raise enough revenue to get out of the hole that we're in."

"It's bad," says District 84 Rep. Eric Robinson. "They say it's the worst budgeting year in the history of modern times, so I'm just bracing myself."

There are questions everywhere. Will money be found to fund Mississippi's Adequate Education Program? What can be done about the ever growing deficit on Medicaid?

Stringer says they want to do the right thing, but where can the money be found?

"The governor's plan cuts all agencies fiver percent, IHL and junior colleges. We don't cut. We add to adequate education, kindergarten through 12th grades, but there's still not enough money to go around," says Robinson, who is chairman of the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee.

This week it was revealed that funding for the agency his committee oversees may see a cut in the $9.5 million range it says it needs to operate.

"The budget's pretty much made up when it reaches us on the House floor," says Robinson. “We need more of a say in the early stages. We feel like some of us do. Maybe we wouldn't be in the shape we're in, but that's the legislative process.”