Committee Clamps Down on Travel Budget

By: Ashley Conroy Email
By: Ashley Conroy Email

Starting Wednesday, House lawmakers are eliminated all out-of-state and in-state paid travel expenses.

This move comes after the House voted to cut $700,000 from its budget to align with how much state agencies have been cut.

House Management Committee member, Credell Calhoun (D-Jackson) said the House is trying to avoid lay-offs with staff members.

"We don't have any other way to come up with $700,000 at this time," Calhoun said.

House Administrator, Don Richardson, said officials hope to save around $600,000 total from cutting out paid travel.

"We're not like a lot of other state agencies where we can cut a lot of things," said Richardson. "We have to cut it from members expense, or salary or staff."

Meanwhile, Senate lawmakers have been instituting cost-cutting measure since the fall of 2008.

Senate Rules Chair, Billy Hewes (R-Harrison), said this past year, the Senate has decided to reduce their budget even more.

"Last year we eliminated all out of state travel, further restricted committee meetings, reduced salaries, and eliminated staff positions," said Hewes. "In FY 2009 we achieved a 4% savings, 6% in 2010, and will have a 12% savings in FY 2011."

In addition, the Senate says it has sent the funds they save back into the general fund to go back to agencies.

Meanwhile, officials have not set a deadline for how long they will continue to eliminate travel expenses.

But the House says it's hoping to be back to paid travel in the next year.

"We've never had to do that, cut all out of state travel, and we would like to get that re-instituted as soon as we can," said Calhoun.

The Senate and House have the right to change whether they are exempt from state budget cuts.

They have not voted on this measure at this point, but both chambers say that is why they have initiated a plan to take cuts like other agencies are forced to do.

The fiscal year 2011 budget so far is set at $5.5 billion. This amount will equal a 12 percent reduction from FY 2010 for agencies starting July 1.

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