Senate Passes Barbour's Budget Proposal

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The Mississippi Senate Wednesday passed Gov. Haley Barbour's ''Operation Streamline'' budget plan. It would give the governor the authority to fire at will employees in ten state agencies. It passed 33 to 16.

Barbour said his plan would save the state $25 million. It has not yet been tested in the state House.

In Meridian Wednesday to promote his legislative proposals, Barbour talked with Newscenter 11 about the state's budget crisis.

"We're in the worst financial mess we've ever been in as a state. If projected spending goes like it's expected to for next year, we'll have a $709 million shortfall in the state budget," said Barbour.

The governor said passage of ''Operation Streamline'' would put the state on the road to controlling its spending, but opponents say it eliminates employees' rights to due process.

Another issue discussed during Barbour's Meridian visit was jobs.

"I said and believe the number one urgent need priority for our state is job creation and in my legislative plan everything that's up there is related to directly or indirectly to job creation," said Barbour, "because that's really what we need is what people are looking for and want from state government."

Barbour tied tort reform legislation into the job creation effort.

"Tort reform is a high priority for me. Tort reform is a hugely important issue in job creation," the governor said. "We know the average person understands that lawsuit abuse refers to quality of healthcare in Mississippi. Well, quality healthcare is a job creation issue. People are not going to come here and open businesses, move employees and families if they are not certain of quality healthcare. Lawsuit abuse clobbers small business and that creates most of the jobs in Mississippi."

The governor repeated his pledge that he will veto any tax increase.

"If the government doesn't give you more services or value your property at a higher level but the government makes you pay more, that's a tax increase," Barbour said.

Gov. Barbour's interview in its entirety will air Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on WTOK-TV's public affairs program, On the Record.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.