House lawmakers cut travel completely for the first time - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

House lawmakers cut travel completely for the first time

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By Ashley Conroy - email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Starting Wednesday, May 12, 2010, house lawmakers are eliminating all out-of-state and in-state paid travel expenses.

The move comes after the Mississippi House of Representatives voted to cut $700,000 from the legislative budget to correspond with how much state agencies have been cut.

House Management Committee member Credell Calhoun (D-Jackson) said the house is trying to avoid lay-offs with staff members.

"We don't have any other way to come up with $700,000 at this time," said Calhoun.

House Administrator Don Richardson said they hope to save around $600,000 from the most recent cut.

"We're not like a lot of other state agencies where we can cut a lot of things.  We have to cut it from members' expense or salary or staff," said Richardson.

Meanwhile, senate lawmakers have been instituting cost-cutting measures since Fall 2008.

Senate Rules Chairman Billy Hewes (R-Harrison) said this past year, the state senate has decided to reduce their budget even more.

"Last year we eliminated all out-of-state travel, further restricted committee meetings, reduced salaries, and eliminated staff positions.  In FY 2009 we achieved a 4% savings, 6% in 2010, and will have a 12% savings in FY 2011," said Hewes.

In addition, the senate said it has sent the saved funds to the general fund to go back to the state's agencies.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have not set a deadline for how long they will continue to eliminate travel expenses.

But the house said its members hope to be back to paid travel in the next year.

"We've never had to do that, cut all out of state travel, and we would like to get that re-instituted as soon as we can," said Calhoun.

The state senate and house have the right to change whether they are exempt from state budget cuts.

Neither has voted on this measure yet, but both chambers said that is why they have initiated a plan to take cuts like other agencies.

The FY 2011 budget is currently set at $5.5 billion.  This amount will equal a 12% reduction from FY 2010 for agencies starting July 1, 2010.

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