Budget now gets most attention

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 15, 2001

With the state flag issue set for an election later this year,lawmakers are turning their attention to other issues,` such a dimstate budget picture.

Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett, House chairman of the communitycollege appropriations, said he planned to meet this week withleaders of the state’s community and junior colleges to hear theirbudget concerns. However, he wasn’t promising any relief from aforecast of budget cuts due to lagging revenue collections.

“It’s not going to be good,” Barnett said. “Every communitycollege in the state is going to see a cut. There’s no questionabout it.”

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According to earlier Legislative Budget Office projections,overall community college funding is expected to be down around $39million. Of that, about $9 million is in the area of vocationaltraining activities.

Close to home, Copiah-Lincoln Community College officials havemade plans to try to offset a projected $1.4 million for the newfiscal year that starts in July. Those efforts include freezingsome positions, tuition and dorm fee increases, reductions insupply and travel budgets and other cost-saving measures.

Barnett indicated, though, community colleges will not be alonein feeling the budget ax.

“There are going to have to be cuts. There are going to be cutsin every state agency except K-12,” he said in reference to thestate’s schools.

Dist. 91 Rep. Joey Hudson of Monticello expressed similarthoughts.

“We’re just going to be doing what we can to fund the programswe’ve got, and education is a priority,” he said.

Hudson said Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has proposed tapping $50million from the state’s “rainy day” fund to meet some budgetneeds. Any more money from the fund would require legislativeapproval, the lawmaker said.

State revenue for the next fiscal year was expected to be about$48 million more, but there would be no surplus, Hudson said. Thatwould represent some growth but not at levels seen earlier.

Hudson said the budget picture represented a slowing of theeconomy and that perhaps Mississippi was seeing the effects earlierthan some other states. The lawmaker did not see much improvementin the future.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to be much better than it hasbeen,” Hudson said.