Completed story – Barbour asks Miss. agencies to examine efficiency

Published 4:20 pm Friday, October 16, 2009

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says he’s asking state agencies to analyze their operations and become more efficient.

Barbour said in a statement Tuesday that he has requested the information by Oct. 23, and he’ll release it to the public as officials work on a budget for the year that begins next July 1.

Barbour also repeated what he said weeks ago — that more budget cuts will be needed before the current fiscal year ends June 30. He trimmed nearly $172 million, or 2.9 percent, from the $6 billion budget in September because of lagging tax collections.

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State law says the governor cannot cut any agency’s budget by more than 5 percent until every agency’s budget has been reduced by that amount.

State Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson that he and other lawmakers had been predicting tough times, but it looks like there will be “even more difficult days ahead.”

Mississippi families are having to cut their spending, Nunnelee said. “These people expect the exact same thing from their state government.”

While education is a “very high priority,” he said, “when it takes up 60 percent of the budget, there’s no way education can escape those cuts.”

On Tuesday, Barbour said balancing the budget will likely require cuts of more than 5 percent, meaning education may be cut again.

He said, though, that he might not make all the needed cuts to balance the budget.

“Clearly, the governor’s statutory budget reduction authority is an inadequately precise tool in this case,” Barbour said in his statement. “I will make further cuts where I can, but it is likely the Legislature will have to deal with the need for more cuts when it returns in January 2010.”

Barbour did not identify how much more he thinks will need to be cut, and he also did not reveal when he would make those cuts.

Barbour said the state also must prepare for the loss of federal stimulus money.

“Much of this money will be gone by December 2010, and none will remain by July 2011; the loss of this one-time federal money is likely to leave huge gaps in the state budget and adversely affect some services.

“The state of Mississippi cannot continue to base its budget or operations on whether or not the federal government will bail us out; instead, the state must live within its means. Doing so will require meaningful reform of what government does and how it does it. Business as usual simply will not work,” the governor said.