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Compromises target as legislative work enters last two weeks

As the 2001 legislative session enters its last two weeks,legislative leaders and Gov. Ronnie Musgrove will look to find acompromise over economic growth estimates and budgetpreparations.

“We’re going to try,” said Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett as helooked to a Monday afternoon meeting with Musgrove that will focuson budget-related differences.

Currently, legislative leaders are basing new budget totals ongrowth estimates of around 3.7 percent. Musgrove has countered thatthe total is irresponsible and unrealistic, and he has threatenedto veto general fund appropriations measures unless a figure closerto 1 percent growth is used.

Musgrove last week vetoed a bill that will allow legislators toborrow from a special fund to pay for legislative special sessions.The legislature quickly voted to override the veto.

Barnett, chairman of community college appropriations, saidlegislative leaders will also talk with members of the LegislativeBudget Office about the spending and budget projections. Heexpected the legislature would prevail in a standoff, although heacknowledged Musgrove’s position has merit.

“I think the governor has some good thoughts,” Barnett said.

Barnett also indicated some misgivings about legislativeplans.

“I hate to spend money we don’t know we have,” he said. “That’swhat it boils down to.”

In his weekly column, Musgrove said the state will be “buildinga budget on quicksand” if the 3.7 percent growth total is used. Healluded to the potential cuts to state agencies, colleges anduniversities and schools next year.

“What is now a budget problem will escalate into a budgetcrisis,” the governor said.

In other legislative activity, both chambers last week sentMusgrove a bill declaring that the slogan “In God We Trust” shallbe displayed in Mississippi classrooms. Barnett was among thosesupporting the measure, although he indicated it could lead to somelegal challenges.

“We’ll probably be in court for years,” Barnett quipped.

The 2001 legislative session is scheduled to end April 1.