Bryant, Mims: State budget to receive facelift

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 5, 2009

NATCHEZ — Mississippi’s budget is going to be receiving a facelift next year — at least, that’s the message Mississippi Lt. Governor Phil Bryant and Rep. Sam Mims had Wednesday night.

The state leaders spoke at the Natchez Homebuilder’s Association’s regular meeting.

Mims explained most of the state’s money comes from income and sales tax, but since the state entered a recession, Mississippi citizens are working less for less and not spending as much — a double edged sword for the state’s economy.

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“We’re going to have to make some very serious decisions,” Mims said. “I’m hoping we can take a step back and re-evaluate state government.”

Mims said national news outlets are reporting the country is coming out of recession, but the state’s situation is a bit different since it took longer for Mississippi to enter the recession full force. “We’re going to get out of this recession a lot later than other states,” Mims said.

Bryant’s message also touched on the state’s economy and its recession recovery.

“(The national media says) the recession is ending,” Bryant said. “But the recovery is not beginning.”

Bryant said he and Gov. Haley Barbour are supporting an overhaul of the state’s budget.

“One of the problems (Mississippi) has is our budget process doesn’t work. It’s an old, antiquated 1890s system,” Bryant said.

Bryant said last year, Barbour had to cut at least $171.9 million from the state’s budget.

Bryant said he doesn’t understand why people still use the system when it negatively affects the state, but likened the relationship to the movie Psycho.

“We hang on to the budget like (Norman Bates) did his momma,” Bryant said. “We’ve got momma in the attic.”

But Bryant said the governor is preparing to introduce a new form of budgeting that would air out the state government’s attic — a performance based budget.

“You actually tie funding to outcome,” Bryant said.

With the new system, the state government would be able to plan specific projects, select a group to work with the projects and watch the progress of the programs for a test period to see if they are successful.

“If things aren’t working, don’t spend money on it,” Bryant said.

Also, Bryant said he and the governor have plans to further the state’s use of CO2 through using it to tap into the state’s crude oil reserve.

When CO2 is put into the ground, it shakes oil out from around the underground rocks and brings oil to the surface.

“More than half of the oil in Mississippi is still in the ground,” Bryant said. “I want the oil and gas business to be back in Mississippi.”