Negotiators Agree on Budget

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Leaders were hoping state budget bills would zip through the House and Senate without changes Friday, but those plans have been stalled.

Rep. John Reeves of Jackson persuaded the House to amend several bills to take away the pay raises some state agency leaders have gotten since June 2003.

Reeves says some executives received tens of thousands of dollars after the Personnel Board studied the pay for similar jobs and recommended changes.

His amendment has been considered by the Senate, and House leaders said the extra work of changing and printing bills could push a special session into next week.

Some lawmakers say Reeves' amendment would take away raises from hundreds of rank-and-file state employees, not just the few agency leaders he was targeting.

House and Senate negotiators late Thursday night agreed on a $4.6 billion budget for the year that starts July 1. The budget is 4.3 percent higher than what the state is spending in the current year.

Public schools are slated to see a 7.2 percent increase. The proposed budget for universities is one percent higher, and the one for community colleges is nearly four percent lower. Many agencies would see cuts.

Mental health is set for a 2.9 percent decrease. One of the smaller budgets, for the Office of Capital Post Conviction Counsel, would see a 75.6 percent drop.