2010 legislative session begins in Mississippi - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

2010 legislative session begins in Mississippi

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - The 2010 legislative session began Tuesday in Mississippi.

The talk of 2009 has been all about how to get a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, but now it is 2010 and lawmakers are going to work in a time where the state's recession is only getting deeper.

The state has seen a decrease in sales tax revenues for 16 straight months. That means state budgets will have to be cut.

"We're going to have to deal with the realities of it, and the reality is that state is going to have to operate on less money again," said Representative for District 104 Larry Byrd.

District 102 representative Toby Barker agrees.

"I think each of us has to be realistic," said Barker. "The house, the Senate and the Governor's Office - while we hope that we can fund some other things, the fact is they money is just not there and we cant appropriate more money than we have."

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Representative Percy Watson said the state will have to operate within the available revenue for appropriation.

Governor Haley Barbour is asking the legislature for power to cut 10 percent from most state agencies. He also wants to consolidate 150 school districts down to 100 and consolidate eight universities into five.

Watson doesn't like the idea.

"That would not result in many cost savings at the state level," he said.

But some are open to consolidation. The session will be a challenge for the House and Senate, but legislators are optimistic they'll come together and avoid a prolonged session.

"What no one wants is to have a repeat of what happened last year where we didn't have the job finished by the end of April and had to drag it on into the summer months," said District 41 Senator Joey Fillingane.

Toby Barker added he didn't believe a special session was necessary because it would cost taxpayers.

Legislators aren't expected to work on many policy issues during this session. The focus will be on where to put what little money is available, and it could be a long battle to the finish line.

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