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Report To The People

Revenue Projections Positive

By Tommy Reynolds

I attended a briefing of the House Appropriations Committee last week concerning the state revenue picture for the next year. Budget analysts stated that the current projections for revenue for the next year are positive and would show an increase over the past year. A problem that we have with the next year’s budget is that Federal stimulus money for Medicaid and other purposes is being fazed out, and these gaps in funding will have to be made up by permanent revenue sources.

The Governor’s budget purposed a cut of most state agencies which include colleges, universities, and mental health facilities. The legislative budget proposal provides for a cut of less than two percent for most state agencies, and it provides level funding for grades K-12.

The level funding for K-12, while not meeting all the local education needs, would hopefully help to cushion drastic cuts at the classroom level around our state. I am concerned that the cost of education may be increasingly shifting from the state level to the local level where property taxes are the most ready source of income. I do not think that the trickle down of tax increases from one level of government to another would be beneficial for education or the citizens of our state.

At another briefing, the House Appropriations Committee heard from the officials with the Public Employees Retirement System, which provides benefits for tens of thousands of retired teachers, city, county and state workers. The retirement system reported that their income for the year 2010 was a positive 14% return of investment which compared to a negative 8.2% in 2008 and a negative 19.4 % in 2009. In the last six months of 2010 the investment return was over 15% alone. Investment returns constitute 49% of the state retirement systems revenue, while employee and employer contributions make up the other 51%. It is my hope that investment income in the PERS system will continue to be on the upswing as the economy begins to mend. Certainly the 15% return on investments in the last six months is very encouraging.

I attended the Governors State of the State Address held at 6 p. m. on last Thursday. Governor Barbour outlined various proposals for legislators to consider in the current session and addressed the legislature for approximately 45 minutes. One proposal of the Governor’s that I feel would be beneficially would be to use $7.3 million in federal supplied funds for a “trooper school,” which would provide 100 new troopers for the Mississippi Highway Patrol. This would help to replace some troopers who have retired. I have in the past supported trooper schools, and I am glad to see that the Governor’s office is supporting this as well.

If I can be of any assistance to you please call on me. My phone number in Jackson during the session is (601) 359-3369. The phone number in my Charleston office is (662) 647-3203, and my residence phone is (662) 473-2571. I can also be contacted by writing to me at my home address of 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965, or at my office address of PO Drawer 220, Charleston, MS 38921.

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