Legislators feeling the pinch of a rough economy

By Jon Kalahar - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Governor Haley Barbour announced another round of budget cuts Wednesday. Even education and Medicaid were cut this time.

But what do these cuts mean for state legislators in session for at least the next two months?

"We've cut $74,000 out of salary categories alone. We've reduced travel and, in the future, you'll see a reduction of accounts that we have," said Lt. Governor Phil Bryant.

Those cuts were not required by law. Expect the same on the House side.

"You're going to see some actions by the House to make some budget cuts, probably see some things like hiring freezes, cutting back on equipment," said Representative Cecil Brown, (D) Jackson.

Don't expect millions to be cut, but the bottom line is everyone is affected by the receding economy. One lawmaker said he and his fellow legislators are feeling the pinch at home, just like every other Mississippian.

The slow housing market is having an impact on real estate agent and state Representative Mark Formby. He says it's time the state reduces spending just like his family is doing.

"When the budget is restricted, then we should restrict the budget. We should live within our means. We certainly expect our families to do that," said Formby.

But the key will be finding sources of revenue to lessen the impact of cuts on the state level.

"There's over $300 million in the rainy day fund, so we need the citizens to know we are not in the ditch. We're not broke, broke," said Representative Tyrone Ellis, (D) Starkville.

The House of Representatives passed an 82 cents cigarette tax increase Wednesday. That increase could generate $200 million a year of additional general fund revenue. The Senate has not yet taken up the bill.