Budget Proposals draw mixed Pine belt reaction - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Budget Proposals draw mixed Pine belt reaction

By Colleen Donovan - bio email | Twitter

HATTIESBURG, MS. (WDAM) - Governor Haley Barbour's proposal to merge five state institutions of higher learning as part of his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2011 is an option state lawmakers like Senator Billy Hudson and Representative Toby Barker aren't ruling out.

Published reports say the move could save the state an estimated 35 million dollars starting in fiscal year 2012 and beyond.

According to Senator Billy Hudson, "If you merged MSU and MUW, they are only 22 miles apart. One is a big university, one is very small. That idea makes good sense to me. You would save a lot of money in duplication of services, an overlapping of programs. You would save a lot of money by cutting administration but I don't know how much."

Hudson said once he finds that out, he'll decide whether or not he can support the recommendation. Representative Toby Barker is also approaching the idea with some caution.

"We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to the taxpayers of Mississippi to at least research the possibilities and see what cost savings along with what opportunity costs are there," said Barker.

However, the Governor's proposal to consolidate several state universities isn't without it's detractors. For example, State Representative Percy Watson of Hattiesburg said he doesn't believe the idea has widespread support.

"I don't think the current situation necessitates these type of proposals. Mississippi has eight institutions of higher learning and they were built at various times and in various locations," said Watson.

Another one of the Governor's budget recommendations includes the consolidation of the state's 152 school districts into 100. Bill Jones of Petal is the Chairman of the State Board of Education and says the suggestion is fueled more by the Governor's political ideology.

"There is widespread support among right wing ideological people who think there are too many schools. Who enjoy the comfort of their opinion without any real inconvenience of thought, and the Governor is one of them," said Jones.

Bill Jones said there are some isolated areas of the state that could benefit from consolidation, but that decision is one the schools should make. Meantime lawmakers are anticipating a tough legislative session when it begins on January 5th.

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