February 13, 2009
JACKSON -- The state Senate voted 25-24 Wednesday against legislation to use state rainy day money to restore education funds cut by Gov. Haley Barbour.
Since the U.S. financial crash in September, Mississippi tax collections have fallen more than $90 million below what the Legislature and Barbour had budgeted for state government to spend.
In response to the shortfall, the Republican governor has imposed $200 million in midyear spending cuts. Of that amount, a total of about $90 million is being taken out of elementary-secondary education and $38 million from state universities.
Mississippi has about $365 million in surplus funds, which the state Legislature''s Democrats want to use to restore funds cut from education. Such legislation has passed the Democratic-controlled House, but the Republican-led Senate voted down the effort Wednesday to use $76 million of that cash for elementary-secondary schools.
Barbour and his legislative allies say they don''t want to take so much money from the rainy day fund so early in the state''s budgeting process, which winds up in April.
"Why do we want to go about raiding the rainy day fund when we just don''t know?" said Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus. "Why shouldn''t (education) take cuts like everyone else?"
Legislators should resist cutting schools in an economic crisis, said Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory. "The last thing we need to do is cut back on government spending."
This is how area senators voted on the measure to take money from the rainy day fund for education: