By Sen. Alan Nunnelee

The dominant issue in the 2010 Legislative Session will be putting together a budget in tough economic times while working to create jobs for our citizens. The recession has had a significant impact on jobs, personal income and personal budgets which in turn affects our state budget.

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am working to craft this difficult budget using a common sense approach. In meetings throughout the fall, I have been reminded of an incident that occurred early in my professional and married life.

I was working in a sales job with much of my income coming from commissions. In addition, my wife Tori had a difficult pregnancy with our first child requiring two hospital stays. After Reed was born, he had two different hospital stays on his own. While we were attempting to pay mounting medical bills, the company for which I worked made an accounting change which significantly reduced my paycheck.

Faced with large medical bills and decreased revenue, Tori and I made a series of difficult decisions. First, we reduced our family spending in numerous areas. When this was not enough, we sold her car and bought a used bicycle with a basket on the front and a baby carrier on the back. I was embarrassed to admit to friends and family that we were in such a financial situation. It was not always easy for Tori and Reed as they pedaled throughout West Tupelo. However, we acted responsibly and made it through tough times.

As unemployment in Northeast Mississippi soars above 10 percent, families and businesses throughout the region are making the same difficult decisions. I have heard from families who have downsized their homes and had to move their children to a different school mid-year. I have heard from businessmen and women who have agonized over having to lay off loyal employees.

If these families and businesses are making the difficult decisions, they have every reason to expect their government to do the same.

We have crafted a budget recommendation that is over $800 million less than the various state agencies requested and $310 million less than our current level of spending.

Our primary focus will be on job creation. The announcement in mid-December by GE Aviation to add 350 jobs in its Batesville facility and Homestretch LLC which will create 140 jobs in Nettleton causes me to be optimistic. In addition, I continue to be hopeful about a major project to be announced early in the legislative session and the resumption of Toyota at Blue Springs. In our approach to the budget, the Legislature should not do anything to impede capital investment and job creation.

Unlike our leaders in Washington who feel that government should “spend our way out of this recession,” I believe government at all levels should tighten our belt, make the difficult decisions, and weather the storm by cutting our spending. Governments do not create jobs, businesses do. However, government can create an environment where businesses can invest capital that results in job creation.

Last year, we passed a sales tax holiday that exempted from sales tax articles of clothing under $100. The response was overwhelming as people flooded the retail outlets in order to take advantage of this tax savings. Businesses hired more employees to help with the weekend, and stocked up on additional inventory. As I drove around North Mississippi and observed the crowds, I was reminded that we do not need a trillion dollar stimulus to our economy that will be repaid by our great grandchildren. Rather, if government will allow men and women to keep more of our hard-earned money we will create our own stimulus.

Just like selling a family car and buying a used bicycle, the 2010 legislative session will not be easy, but if we keep our focus on spending cuts and job creation, Mississippi will be perfectly positioned to emerge from this recession and enjoy the benefits of an expanding economy.

I am interested in your thoughts and concerns. Please keep me informed through my website at www.nunneleeforcongress.com.

Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, is a businessman who represents Lee and Pontotoc counties in the Legislature and is a candidate for 1st District congressman. Contact him at alan@senatornunnelee.com.

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