Almost to a person, state lawmakers asked about the current state budget and the Fiscal Year 2010 now under construction by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee will reply with one voice that they expect more budget cuts in FY 2009.

By most estimates, lawmakers may be dealing with revenues shortfalls well in excess of $500 million in FY 2009 and with numbers that aren't dramatically better in FY 2010. Plus, the current federal stimulus funds will be drying up about that time as well.



More budget cuts



If those premises are true - and they are unless I perhaps underestimated the revenue shortfall - then Gov. Haley Barbour will be forced to make additional budget cuts. Barbour has already made budget cuts of $171.9 million in a $6 billion FY 2009 state budget.

Most lawmakers, state agency heads and statewide elected officials are expecting another round of cuts this year and perhaps more than one.

While most lawmakers and most agency heads are paying lip service to calling on Barbour to postpone any additional budget cuts until he has more information on actual revenue collections and any changes in federal stimulus package money available from the federal government, the truth is that the state is better served for Barbour to make budget cut as early as possible and at the first sign of necessity. Why?



Easier impact



When a state a state agency gets a five or seven or even 10 percent budget cut early in the year, that manager has time to spread the budget cut pain over a longer period of time and still maintain services and protect state employees. But when large budget cuts come late in a fiscal year, the impact is immediate and can threaten to interrupt, delay or eliminate the services that agency provides due to budget stress.

So lawmakers who talk about Barbour keeping his powder dry on budget cuts mostly do so with their fingers crossed. Most of then hope and pray Barbour will take the political heat for budget cuts early in the fiscal year.

Unlike some governors in the past, Barbour will pull the trigger on budget cuts. No matter how deep the complaints, the criticism or the personal and political attacks, Barbour keeps his budget fences mended.

Truth be told, it's like the tale of the standoff between Brer' Fox and Brer' Rabbit. While lawmakers may feign objections to Barbour's early budget cuts, those cuts are a political briar patch in which most intelligent lawmakers are hoping to be thrown.

Blaming budget cuts on a zealous governor is far easier than spending an entire legislative session from budget hearings to sine die telling every group that asks for funding of a new program or expansion of an existing one "no."

They aren't posturing this year. Budgets will be cut. That's the realities of the budget briar patch in FY 2010.



Contact Sid Salter at (601) 961-7084 or e-mail ssalter@clarionledger.com. His talk radio show, On Deadline with Sid Salter, is broadcast on the SuperTalk Mississippi network. Visit his blog at clarionledger.com.

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