State lawmaker: stimulus won't fix budget woes, may worsen problems

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) -  A South Mississippi lawmaker says billions in stimulus money won't be enough to prevent state lawmakers from having to deal with a major budget shortfall when they return the capital later this month.

The state legislature had hoped to complete a state budget this week; however, Friday, lawmakers decided to leave and return May 26 to try to finish a budget that begins July 1.

Negotiators say they need more time to examine tax-collection trends, debate a possible hospital tax to help fund Medicaid and evaluate how federal stimulus money will affect state government.

Richard Bennett represents House District 120 which includes Long Beach.

"The stimulus funds will not be a cure all. In some cases, I think it may hurt the state with the strings that are attached to stimulus plan. Once the money runs out, the state is going to be committed to funding some of these projects," Bennett said. "We don't have the money, so I think we've got to be very careful and look what strings are attached to the stimulus package and hope people understand that that's not the answer."

Bennett says he believes the fair thing to do is to have an across the board budget cut.

"Everyone is going to have to cut a certain percentage,"said Bennett. "We'll have to look at the number and see what it is. I think at least the House is committed to fully funding MAEP, but I think there will be some cuts to education also. I think across the board, everyone is going to have to tighten their belt."

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