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State Budget Cuts Coming

Gov. Haley Barbour and Mississippi lawmakers are taking the first steps toward tightening state agency budgets as a shaky economy causes tax collections to fall short of officials’ original expectations.

Barbour said weeks ago that agencies should prepare to cut 2 percent of their spending. He will announce $42 million in specific reductions next week.

House Democrats said if Barbour makes deep cuts to elementary and secondary education, they’ll try to put money back into the schools by taking cash out of the rainy day fund, which provides a financial cushion for the state budget.

The rainy day fund has a balance of about $367 million, but Barbour said he doesn’t want to deplete it because he believes Mississippi could face tough economic times for at least the next two years.

House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said local school districts are obligated to pay for teachers’ contracts and for expenses such as electricity, buses and fuel.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee on Tuesday cut $78.6 million off the original $5.1 billion revenue estimate for the current fiscal year, which runs through June 30.

The lawmakers and Barbour also set a revenue estimate of slightly over $5.1 billion for the year that begins July 1.

The revenue estimate is the best guess by the state treasurer, the state economist and other financial experts about the amount of money the state might collect in a year.

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