Summary of the Mississippi State of the State Address
By Stateline Staff
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour used his Jan. 18 state of the state address to urge the Democratic-led Legislature to approve a bill that would allow him to cut individual agency budgets up to 10 percent. He also called job creation and workforce training his No. 1 priorities and touted Mississippi's leadership in alternative energy production.
Barbour vowed not to raise taxes and said he could not support a tax amnesty program that he said is unfair to those who faithfully pay their taxes. He urged lawmakers to make the state's $234 million rainy day fund last three more years by spending only a third of it and suggested draining the tobacco trust fund instead.
Without budget cutting flexibility, the state's sharp revenue declines will force across-the-board reductions of 8.1 percent, which Barbour said would not make sense for every agency. In corrections, for example, such a cut would require the release of 3,400 to 4,000 convicts who are not approved for parole, he said.
Praising lawmakers for reauthorizing more than $20 million in job-training grants to community colleges and other organizations, Barbour credited the program with boosting individual incomes for its graduates by $4,300 per year, resulting in a 27 percent hike in the state's per capita income between 2004 and 2008. Touting a variety of new and expanding energy projects in the state - including Mississippi Gasification, Inc., which was awarded a $1.7 billion loan guarantee by the U.S. Department of Energy to build a synthetic natural gas plan, and Enerkem, a Canadian company that received a $50 million federal grant to build a waste-to-energy facility - Barbour said the state is positioned to be a leader in the energy sector. Experts are calling Mississippi a "prime focus of the bio fuels energy industry," because of its supply of wood and other feedstock crops for cellulosic ethanol and similar fuels, he noted.