The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 1/6/9

The 2009 legislative session will convene today under the cloud of lower-than-expected state tax collections for the month of December.

For the month, collections were off by more than 9 percent, or $30 million, from the official estimate.

The sluggish tax collections highlight the biggest obstacle the Legislature will face in the 2009 session: how to balance the budget during the economic recession.

“The economy is the big bear in the room,” House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said Monday while preparing for session, which begins at noon today.

The Legislature will meet today in the Old Capitol, which has been closed since incurring damage in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina. After the ceremonial opening of the session, the Old Capitol will remain open as a museum as it was before the storm damage.