Federal stimulus a sticky issue in Mississippi

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee acknowledges that without the federal largesse, lawmakers would’ve had even more trouble setting a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 because state tax collections have been sluggish the past several months.

But Nunnelee — a Tupelo Republican with congressional aspirations — usually refers to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by its acronym, ARRA, which he pronounces “EH-rah,” sounding an awful lot like “error.”

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, no great fan of Democratic President Barack Obama, says the stimulus package is allowing Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the nation, to spend a record amount of money on some parts of government.

“It is not a sustainable budget by any stretch of the imagination, particularly for education,” Barbour told reporters at the state Capitol.

The National Governors Association says that since the economy started to sputter last fall, most states’ revenues have dropped significantly.

The infusion of federal cash has allowed Mississippi to avoid layoffs or furloughs of state workers. And while many agencies lost up to 5 percent from their budgets during the year that ended June 30, there were no dramatic events such as grandmothers being tossed out of nursing homes or inmates being put out on the streets to save space in prisons.

Mississippi’s revenues fell about $390 million short of expectations for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The state’s unemployment rate hit 9.8 percent in June, about 2 percent higher than the same month in 2008. State officials expect a slow recovery from the recession.

AP
7/27/9