It may seem a bit strange to give a legislative update in July, but it was equally as strange to be voting on our state budget at 11:58 p.m. on June 30 – the last day of the fiscal year. However, I am happy to report that the final adopted budget for fiscal year 2010 is balanced, does not have any pre-planned deficits and funds priorities like education, law enforcement and economic development.
I was honored to be one of the Senate negotiators that helped craft what I consider to be one of the soundest budgets in my tenure in the legislature. I was proud to follow the lead of Senate Appropriations Chairman Alan Nunnelee (R-Tupelo) as we worked with our counterparts in the House. We were working with a near $400 million shortfall for fiscal year 2009, trying to solve a Medicaid crisis and dealing with the restrictions that came with the federal stimulus package passed earlier this year by the Congress.
The Senate, House of Representatives and the Governor all agreed to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Formula, and get community and junior colleges and our universities close to their 2009 appropriation. Every year the legislature puts a priority on total education funding, and I am proud that even in the face of the worst economic condition in recent history we remain committed to educating our young people.
While I am hopeful the state’s economy turns around quickly, we must be realistic in recognizing this recession might last longer than we would like. Government should not be immune from making hard decisions that those in the private sector have already had to, and continue to, make. We must also prepare for hard economic times in the future, and that is why we made the decision to carry $60 million forward to fiscal year 2011. Due to the expiration of the current federal stimulus package, January 1, 2011 the state’s Medicaid cost will increase $33 million a month. It does not make sense for state government officials to have this knowledge and choose not to prepare for it.
July 1 was the first day of fiscal year 2010, but it was also the first day many new state laws went into effect. One of those new laws I was able to get passed during the regular session. I was able to get major legislation to the Governor’s desk such as making it a state crime to sell a child. While it is inconceivable to many of us, there are some in our society who sell children for monetary gain. Because of this new legislation, people convicted of such a crime will now face a $20,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
The Senate also passed legislation which would have allowed cities and counties to give a $50 and $100 ad valorem tax credit to those brave men and women serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also passed sweeping legislation which would have made the streets of our state safer by implementing the ignition interlock device for those convicted of DUI. Unfortunately both of these bills died in their respected House committee. I will try again next year on both issues.
We were also able to pass a commending resolution for Hernando High School Principal Freddie Joseph for his achievement as ‘2009 High School State Principal of the Year’. Mr. Joseph is a shining example of the excellent quality of educators we have here in DeSoto County.
Should you ever need to contact me please feel free to reach me in Hernando at (662) 449-4115 or in Jackson at (601) 359-2220. You may also e-mail me at [email protected] Between now and January, I will continue to work hard for the people I represent. It is a true honor for me to be allowed to be your voice in the State Senate in Jackson.
Senator Doug Davis