Barbour Releases Budget Proposal

Praying for the best while preparing for the worst is how Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour describes his newly announced budget proposal for fiscal year 2010.

Barbour is a proposing cutting spending by two percent more than what is now in place.

Despite this, the plan calls for fully funding Mississippi's Adequate Education Program and does not call for any cuts to the state's health department or Medicaid system.

Barbour is also proposing a 24-cent per pack increase on the more popular brands of cigarettes and a 43-cents-per-pack increase on cheaper brands.
This is something local lawmakers we talked to think could pass.

"I think there's a sentiment to raising the tobacco tax. My goodness, the governor is proposing a 24 cent per pack increase. Many people have proposed a $1 tax increase," said state Rep. Greg Snowden of Meridian. "I don't think that's likely, but I think anything between that 24 cents a pack and probably 67 cents a pack which would equal a total 50 cent increase, anything between there would be very possible and probably likely."

Snowden said perhaps some of the money collected from the tobacco tax increase may be used toward the $90 million shortfall in Mississippi's Medicaid fund.

Under the governor's proposal he says the remaining money to help with the shortfall would come from the proposed reinstatement of a $90 million tax on hospitals which is something that state Budget Committee member Senator Terry Burton strongly supports.

"It's the same $90 million they were paying for years and year and years," said Burton. "So, it's not a new tax on hospitals. I'm not for giving hospitals a $90 million tax break and cutting education to make up for it. I just think it would be the wrong thing to do."

Meanwhile, two things not mentioned in the governor's proposal are pay raises for teachers or state employees.

Barbour also suggests using $84 million from the rainy day fund to shore up the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

With the governor's proposed plan now on the table, the ball now lies in the legislature's court to decide what changes, if any, need to be made before officially passing the budget for next fiscal year.

Mississippi lawmakers will convene to work on the upcoming fiscal year budget when the regular sessions begins in January 2009.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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