Over 500 library, mental health and education supporters protested at the Capitol recently, urging Governor Haley Barbour to back off his budget proposal that advocates say cuts too much into critical state services.
The Mississippi House and Senate continue in a deadlock over passing a budget, while Gov. Haley Barbour recently traveled the state outlining a “compromise” spending plan he’s submitted. Some House lawmakers say the governor's recent plan would not cover funding for education, mental health facilities and other crucial programs.
A group of Democrats in the Mississippi House recently expressed concern that Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant is asking them to undermine their authority by drawing House districts that would be more favorable to Republicans. Mississippi lawmakers are trying to determine legislative districts in the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate districts to reflect changes revealed by the 2010 Census.
Legislators had two huge tasks ahead of them during this session. The first was to redraw district lines to reflect population shifts and the second task was to pass a budget.
Unless something turns around quickly at the Capitol, legislators could be facing failures on both, requiring an overtime session to pass a spending plan and a court battle to settle the redistricting battle.
Current discussions over a possible $5.55 billion budget negotiation came to a halt after lawmakers found out that Gov. Haley Barbour wants to add another $180 million in spending cuts.
Governor Barbour claimed the preliminary numbers adopted by lawmakers would spend nearly $58 million more in FY 2012 than the state is spending now, would leave only $155 million in reserves, and would spend more than $507 million in non-recurring money on expenses that occur year after year.
The Mississippi Senate recently turned down a vote, which would have rejuvinated negotiations over legislative district boundaries. The vote took place after a group of the chamber's Republican members met behind closed doors with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant.
Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, tried to implement a maneuver that would have allowed the Senate to vote on its map of new Senate districts that it and the House had already approved. He couldn't gain enough votes in the Senate to pass the measure.
The Mississippi redistricting process is loaded with high stakes. The process could determine the state Democratic Party’s last bid for power and control of the House. Redistricting outcomes could also affect Gov. Haley Barbour’s potential bid in the presidential election and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant’s gubernatorial aspirations. Most importantly, the process could consume taxpayer money and voter goodwill. Redistricting is at a stadoff and locked in a partisan battle between the Senate and House.
A majority of the state's pension board said they will not support skipping a taxpayer-funded increase next year to bolster the retirement system. Gov. Haley Barbour suggested that course of action, and the state Senate recently passed legislation to back his plan. Meanwhile, when interviewd by The Clarion Ledger, several pension board members stated they would oppose any efforts to skip the funding increase that actuaries had suggested to keep the funding solvent.