"Operation: Streamline" Unveiled

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More than half of Mississippi's 52 state senators are signing on to sponsor Gov. Haley Barbour's budget, but House Speaker Billy McCoy says he's concerned about major parts of Barbour's plan, including changes in state employees' health insurance and a shortfall of funding for public schools.

McCoy said in an interview Tuesday that state workers and teachers should not have to lose sleep over their financial situations.

At a news conference earlier, the governor said his budget, dubbed “Operation: Streamline,'' would cut Mississippi's $709 million deficit in half during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

He says he wants to wipe out the deficit the next year.

The cuts in the $3.54 billion budget could come through efficiency measures such as changing the way universities purchase goods and through removing civil service protection from some state jobs, which would allow several hundred state employees to be fired.

Barbour's budget also suggests changing the health insurance plan for state employees and teachers, possibly making them pay for some of their own coverage. They now pay only for dependents.