AP – Miss. House votes to use rainy day and tobacco funds – Senate unlikely to pass it

JACKSON, Miss. — With school superintendents peering down from balconies overhead, the Democratic-controlled Mississippi House passed a bill Tuesday that would restore $100 million of the $437 million in budget cuts Republican Gov. Haley Barbour has made this fiscal year.
The bill is likely to stall in the Senate, where Barbour’s allies say it takes too much money from the state’s financial reserves.

The House plan would pump $43.4 million back into elementary and secondary schools, which have lost $194.6 million because of shortfalls in state revenue. That would put the schools’ losses at 6.4 percent rather than 8.2 percent.

Republican opponents accused Democrats of pandering to the audience of educators. The bill is likely to die in the Senate because Barbour’s allies say it drains too much money from the state’s financial reserves.

“We’re just trifling, people. We’re trifling with their affections and playing with their emotions,” said Republican Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon, gesturing to the packed balconies.

The House-passed plan would take $50 million from the $231 million rainy day fund. It would also take $50 million from the health care trust fund, where, for the past decade, the state has put its annual collections from the settlement of a massive lawsuit against cigarette makers. Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said the health care trust fund has $220 million. State Treasurer Tate Reeves said the fund’s balance is $203 million.

AP
1/26/10