Lawmakers mull options on funding education amid cuts

By Jon Kalahar - email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - One option for local school districts hurt in the governor's latest round of budget cuts is a tax increase.

But state lawmakers say not so fast. They hope options they are looking at might keep that from happening.

"We're in the middle of a deep recession and every day I begin to realize that more and more," said Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant, (R) Brandon.

Those words came from Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant as he and two other Senate committee chairmen discussed the state's budget situation.

One of the biggest concerns on their minds is education. Because of required budget cuts from the governor, 20 school districts don't have enough funding to cover their budgets.

"They're not all equal, some districts have better financial circumstances than others," said Rep. Cecil Brown, (D) Jackson.

House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown says all options are on the table, both at the state and local levels.

"I think you'll see some districts looking at raising taxes, local taxes. As far as individual homeowners, that's pretty tough. But it's not gonna be enough money to solve the problem in some of these districts," said Brown.

A big piece to funding education after these budget cuts is the $300 million that's in the state's rainy day fund. But lawmakers aren't sure how much of that money they'll be able to use with so many other areas needing financial help as well.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Alan Nunnelee says the state's reserves, as well as the those in the local districts, will have to be used.

"Let's face it, it's raining and we're all gonna partner to get through this together," said Nunnelee.

Representatives believe the cigarette tax increase they passed earlier this week can help. If passed by the Senate it could raise $70 million for this fiscal year and $200 million next year.