Key House negotiator announces budget deal [Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo :: ]
(Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 29--JACKSON -- Legislative negotiators reached a deal late Friday night on a budget to fund state agencies, public universities and college and local school districts, according to Internet reports
House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, the chief House negotiator, announced the dal via the social internet network Twitter saying, "Let the white smoke out of the roof of the Capitol, we have a budget." House Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, also announced the deal via Twitter.
Details on the agreement were not available early Saturday.
By tonight's deadline, negotiators still must reach agreement on revenue and bond bills to fund long-term construction projects. Under consideration are funds to help Cooper Tire in Tupelo to modernize to ensure it remains in operation, funds to build a Tammy Wynette Museum in Tremont and funds to make additional improvements to the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo.
In an earlier interview, before the deal was reached, Senate Appropriations Chair Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, said, "I wouldn't point at one singular budget item ... where the House and the Senate have a major disagreement."
Clarke said at issue was developing "some framework of how the budget is pulled together" to fund what is essentially a $6 billion state budget that is funded primarily through various sources of state revenue.
At that time, Clarke said agreement has been reached on most special fund agencies, which make the total state budget about $19 billion. Special fund agencies are those funded by a specific fee or tax, such as a gasoline tax for the Department of Transportation or a fee on barbers for their regulatory agency or by federal funds. It is traditionally easier to reach agreement on special fund agencies since they are funded through specific sources and there is little discretion in how those funds are appropriated.
Clarke said the key to ending the process was agreeing on such items as the size of a deficit appropriation for the Division of Medicaid for the current fiscal year and the amount of items that are one-time expenses that can be funded with non-recurring funds.
The legislative leadership has stated as a goal not to use any one-time money to fund recurring expenses in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
When those details are worked out, Clarke said negotiators, who have been working behind closed doors, could reach agreement on such items as the size of a teacher pay raise and whether to provide additional funds to the local school districts, as the majority of the Senate has stated it wants to do.
Clarke said it essentially had been agreed to that $6.9 million will be appropriated to pay for the training of about 60 new state troopers to address a shortage statewide of about 150.
And he said it was "absolutely" possible that money might be appropriated to provide a pay raise to some state employees. He said what might be possible is an increase for less than 5,000 state employees who earn less than $30,000 per year and have not had a raise in four years. He said what is being considered is a $1,000 across-the-board increase for that group.
But Clarke stressed that there might not be enough funds to accomplish some of their goals. Presumably all those details were worked out late Friday night and will be revealed later today.
The full House and Senate are slated to begin taking up the more than 100 bills that fund state government Sunday afternoon.
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