Mississippi state Rep. Greg Snowden of District 83 said he reviewed the upcoming session for members of the Lauderdale County Council of Governments and found little, except problems.
"If we were to shut down every prison in the state of Mississippi, send all the prisoners home or wherever they would go, that would save us $263 million," said Snowden. "That's the total expenditure for the Department of Corrections, so if we were to shut every prison and send all the prisoners home, we would be $129 million short of the requested increase for K through 12 alone, this year over last year."
Snowden said the state's financial problem is enormous.
"We're going to have a gap of anywhere between $600 million to $850 million of what we need to have as opposed to what we know we will have, so that's what we're going to be dealing with when we get there in January looking at the budget," Snowden said.
He said education, roads and highways and other needs must be dealt with, but Medicaid may be the largest problem of them all.
"Every year we have these huge increases, just huge increases. I've said this for at least the last two years. It is a sponge that's going to soak up everything else if we don't get control of Medicaid spending," said Snowden.
Snowden said he did not believe either the House or Senate would vote to raise taxes in the face of Gov. Haley Barbour's threat to veto such an action. That leaves only cutting some programs and laying off state employees.
He said the Legislature does not want to do either one, but faced with a money crutch, it may have no choice.