Haley Barbour emerged victorious this past week. While states nationwide were issuing IOUs, the Mississippi legislature actually passed a balanced budget albeit kicking and screaming from the pressure levied on them by Governor Barbour. This may be viewed historically as Governor Barbour’s second greatest accomplishment of his term (the first being of course the response to Katrina). It will likely further serve to raise his stock among conservatives in the 2012 Presidential conversation.
Remember where we came from before the Special Session.
The Billy McCoy-led House wanted $0 hospital assessment on Medicaid. Governor Barbour got $60M that will increase to $90M under certain conditions in 2011.
McCoy and the MS Hospital Association wanted total protection for hospitals against cuts. They wound up being up to $40M at risk should Barbour need to make cuts to balance the budget.
McCoy’s leaders wanted no taxes on small tobacco. Governor Barbour got close to $10M against House leaders initial wishes.
Of course the main bone of contention was saving the Rainy Day fund from the House spending it like drunken sailors (with my apologies to drunken sailors everywhere for the comparison). Here, Haley aided largely by Lt. Governor Phil Bryant and Senator Alan Nunnelee on the Senate Appropriations Committee held firm.
Governor Barbour artfully ran out the clock and boxed the Legislature in and had them literally begging him to be called back into the session. He set the tone by requiring that all revenues be taken care of first before expanding the call for revenue bills. It took extraordinary discipline to slay the spending dragon, but again, it may well be viewed as one of his greatest accomplishments as Governor.
The PSC has very closely aligned themselves with Attorney General Jim Hood. Given the PSC’s history of corruption in its ranks (former commissioner D.W. Snyder went to jail for corruption), several senators were uneasy about expanding their charter for “more technical resources” when the Public Utilities Staff has a full complement of advisory staff that are functionally at the beck and call of the PSC. Many around the Capitol believe that the game plan for the PSC and Hood was to expand the PSC staff and then make a move to disband the PUS in a few years. Instead of settling for what they had under extraordinary budget circumstances, House leaders pressed their luck on the PSC power grab and it got shot down in committee on the Senate side. It was just another side effect of the Legislature playing chicken with the Governor over the budget and not including him in deliberations forcing the special session.
Barbour has now called a special session to convene on July 10, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. for funding the PSC/PUS. My bet is that it would be at a static level as compared to last year. For anything he hasn’t signed from the last special session, he would then have line item authority on revenue bills for the most part up until July 15. Any of those vetoes would not be able to be acted upon by the Legislature until they are next in regular session in January allowing him a little more control on the revenue side for FY10 . . . theoretically.
A Little Intrigue
Just before sine die in the Senate, Lt. Governor Phil Bryant announced the 10 members of the Senate that would serve on the all-important redistricting committee. He chose 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans. That would seem to be a direct challenge to House Speaker Billy McCoy, who has totally frozen out Republicans since his 62-60 vote to be re-elected as speaker. Should McCoy choose a lopsided Democrat majority on this committee, fur will certainly fly. There has been almost no mention of this anywhere in the press, but lobbyists, politicos and insiders are watching it carefully.
Have a great 4th of July weekend.