Lawmakers Wrap, But Likely to Return

By: Chris Brennaman
By: Chris Brennaman

According to lawmakers, the biggest reason the 2006 regular session was successful was the cooperation of the House and Senate. That cooperation, they say, came from the leadership fighting the governor rather than each other.

That fight for the grocery and cigarette tax bill was unsuccessful.

"We missed out on some opportunities to do some things for the people of Mississippi that we started out early trying to do," said Sen. Terry Burton. "The sales tax cut did not pass, The governor vetoed it and we couldn't muster the votes to override that veto. That's an issue that will be back. I think the people lose when we don't do that."

However, all the news out of Jackson wasn't bad for legislators. According to Rep. Greg Snowden, east Mississippi fared very well during this session.

"Here in the Meridian area, we are very thrilled to get the $4 million bond issue for the Arts and Entertainment Center. That certainly shows that state support is there and is going to continue to be there as this project moves forward toward completion," Snowden said.

In addition to the funding for the Arts and Entertainment Center, money was also set aside for The Riley Center. But Snowden says the biggest financial coup for our area is the increased pay for state workers.

"We have so many state employees in this area, many of whom have not had really good raises for six years," said Snowden. "And the Legislature did step forward this year and gave substantial pay raises to all state employees."

Another big plus, lawmakers say, is the additional funding for higher education. Almost 100 million more dollars will be pumped into colleges and universities next year. But that was possible because funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program for K-12 is being phased in. Some supporters of K-12 are not satisfied with that.

It does appear there will be a special session this year. Lawmakers failed to finish a last minute bond bill that would help build a road to an as of yet undetermined expansion at the Chevron refinery on the Gulf Coast.

The governor has indicated he'll likely call a special session to deal with that issue, though he hasn't yet said when.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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