The Hattiesburg American, 1/8/9

A bill that would restore money cut last year from Mississippi’s higher education systems has set the stage for the Legislature’s first battle over dipping into the state’s rainy day fund to cover agency shortfalls.

Supporters of House Bill 290 said the money will help colleges operate for the rest of fiscal 2009, countering the 2 percent cuts Gov. Haley Barbour ordered in November.

The cuts, a result of declining state revenue, cost colleges $17.2 million.

Local university and community college presidents expressed their approval of the passage, as well as their hope that the Senate will prioritize education by following suit.

“This is good news,” University of Southern Mississippi President Martha Saunders said. “The universities in the state have had to wait at the end of a very long line for a very long time.”