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Report To The People

Reynolds Handles House Bill To Restore Funding To Colleges And Universities Using Rainy Day Fund

By Tommy Reynolds

The Mississippi State Legislature began its 2009 Legislative Session on Tuesday, January 6, when the Legislature was called to order in the historic Old Capitol Building. The Old Capitol had been restored. Hurricane Katrina caused several million dollars of damage  in 2005. This was the building that was Mississippi’s statehouse and capitol from 1839 until 1903, when the Legislature moved into the New Capitol Building.

Governor William Winter addressed the House of Representatives and told the Legislature there had been far more difficult times than those we have at present for our state. Governor Winter told of the fact that in 1932 the State Treasury had less than a $1300 balance, and that $750 had to be borrowed from a local bank to pay the postage to send out state income tax notices. He pointed out all the great material and educational progress that our state had made since those depression years. The House was also addressed by Governor Haley Barbour.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed HB 290 which would restore approximately $17 million in cuts from colleges and university funding from the $362 million state “Rainy Day Fund.” I handled this bill on the House floor, which passed by over a two-to-one margin. The Bill comes in response to approximate one-third increase in tuition costs in the last five years for our four-year colleges and significant increases in cost in tuition for our community colleges. Our state universities are becoming world class and are vital to future economic development. I want to make sure that they are, “to the best of our ability,” adequately funded and that education is not priced out of the range of middle income youth.

The state budget situation is going to be greatly affected by two factors. One factor will be the current recession that our country has entered into which will result in flat or decreased tax revenues. Secondly, any assistance that we will receive from the federal level for our state budget will be of crucial importance. Bills are being proposed at the federal level of government that would provide several hundred million dollars in additional funding for the state’s Medicaid Program over the next two years.

Medicaid funds the costs of most nursing home residents and approximately one-fourth of the citizens of our state rely on this Program for their healthcare and medications. The Medicaid Program has greatly increased in costs in recent years.

I believe that it is important that we prioritize state spending and that education, healthcare, and transportation be adequately funded so that the future of our state can be protected.

If I can be of any assistance to you please call on me. My phone number in Jackson during the session is (601) 359-3365. The phone number in my Charleston office is (662) 647-3203, and my residence phone number is (662) 473-2571. I can also be contacted by writing me at my home address of 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965, or at my office address of P.O. Box 280, Charleston, MS 38921.

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