BRADENTON, Fla. — Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour Monday night said that the softening economy, higher energy prices, and the state’s lagging housing market are among the reasons that he would not support issuing any debt in fiscal 2009 unless it creates jobs.

State sales tax receipts for July through December, the first half of the current fiscal year, increased only 1/10th of 1%, underscoring the discipline that will be necessary to prepare a structurally sound budget for fiscal 2009, Barbour said in his state of the state address.

“This will require considerable budget discipline,” he told a joint legislative session. “It means we’ll have to tell some people ‘No,’ it means some good things won’t get funded or won’t get as much funding as some people would like.”

Barbour reminded lawmakers that four years ago the state was “in the deepest budget hole” in its history and now, as revenue increases are slowing, the state must prevent a deficit from occurring again.

The rainy-day fund, which has risen to nearly $270 million today from less than $10 million four years ago, needs to increase further in order to protect the state against revenue shortfalls, Barbour said.

The double-A rated state must control debt spending, which rose to more than $3 billion in 2003 from $500 million in the early 1990s, the governor said.

“As Dave Ramsey says, if we’re to balance our budget in challenging economic times, the first thing we need to do is to cut up our credit cards,” Barbour said, referring to the financial expert. “That’s why I will oppose authorizing any new state debt during this session of the Legislature unless it’s related to creating jobs.”

Barbour said funding education would remain a top priority for fiscal 2009, but he warned that budget increases would not be as large as in the past few years unless other programs are cut.

“Our duty is to live within our means — to pass an honest, balanced budget,” Barbour said, noting that he would present his budget recommendation later this week. “It will strengthen our rainy-day fund because I realize this is essential as we prepare for the possibility of a national economic downturn.”


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