Reflecting on Special Session

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Point blank, according to some lawmakers, one of the biggest winners in the newly adopted budget for next year is education.

Across the board, educational institutions in Mississippi are receiving increases in funding. Despite the increases, this amount for education is still $87 million less than what was requested by the Department of Education.

Although not all of the funds requested were granted, lawmakers say education in Mississippi still fared very well, given that the general fund budget as a whole was reduced by almost two percent.

With fewer funds to work with, cuts had to be made somewhere. One of the losers was Medicaid, which will lose $166 million. As far as how exactly this will affect recipients, District 82 Rep. Charles Young said it's still too early to say.

"I think we just need to just wait and see what the numbers are going to come up to be, and once the numbers come up, then we can address it," said Young.

To help those affected by the cuts, Rep. Young said a number of pharmaceutical companies are expected to offer free or discounted prescription drugs to those who qualify.

Meanwhile, he says lawmakers could do even more work on addressing the Medicaid budget during the upcoming special session which Gov. Barbour says he will call.

Unlike the session which just ended, Gov. Barbour says the focal point for this special session will be the Momentum Mississippi initiative. It's an effort which Young says began years ago in Jackson to lure more small businesses to the state. As for why the issue was not addressed in the session which just ended, Young says it's simple.

"The holdup is normally where people are playing little games between the house, the senate, the governor's office. We just need to find more room to work together rather than working apart."

Although the governor is vowing to call another special session soon, exactly when that will be is still unknown.

The new budget means local schools will be getting some pretty significant increases. Numbers from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program provided to members of the state legislature during the session showed:

Lauderdale County up $222,354
Meridian up $1,728,997
Enterprise up $140,350
K-12 Funding raised 7%
Junior Colleges up $1.5 m
Universities up $5.8 million