The Clarion-Ledger, 1/7/9

In contrast to Tuesday’s celebratory kickoff at the Old Capitol Museum of the 2009 legislative session, Mississippi lawmakers today confront a current budget $65.2 million below estimates and the challenge of paying for state services in an unstable economy.

The rest of the 90-day session will be at the new Capitol.

A legislative budget report issued Tuesday detailed the revenue shortfall for the fiscal year that began last July. December has been the worst month so far, with collections $32.2 million below estimates.

Corporate tax returns being processed after coming in late could make up some revenue. The federal government allowed a filing extension for businesses affected by recent hurricanes.

Like most states, Mississippi is being hammered by the national recession. Sluggish collections already have prompted $42 million in cuts in the state’s $5 billion budget, and Gov. Haley Barbour warned more cuts would be necessary if revenues didn’t improve.