'03 Session Underway

Most legislators agree already that the 2003 Mississippi legislative session can be summed up easily.

"We're broke as far as making ends meet," said Rep. Eric Robinson of Quitman. "Our wants outnumber what we have in the purse."

With state tax collections down and a shaky economy, legislators say the main concern is the lack of money. With a promised teacher pay raise on the table and many agencies struggling to recover from previous budget cuts, some lawmakers say there is only one answer.

"I think we really need to raise taxes this year instead of next year," said Sen. Sampson Jackson of Kemper County. "You know, with all of the budget cuts. But I think what we need to do is if we could raise every tax just a little where it wouldn't effect individuals as much, we could raise enough money to stabilize our budget."

Many legislators agree that a tax increase will be close to impossible during an election year. Others say, election year or not, raising taxes is not the answer.

"It's really difficult to raise taxes. You know times are tough on people," said Sen. Terry C. Burton of Newton. "I think we can do it through reprioritizing of issues, programs and what people expect from government."

No major action was taken Tuesday. State lawmakers return to work Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. Any major legislative action is unlikely until next week.

The governor's state-of-the-state address is set for Thursday at 11:00 a.m. in the House chambers.