State lawmakers readying for budget process

Published 12:03 am Thursday, January 4, 2018

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers are doing their homework as they get ready to write a state budget.

The Legislative Budget Office director, Tony Greer, held a briefing Wednesday at the Capitol to explain the recommendations released in November by top budget committee members in the House and Senate.

The early numbers are likely to change a bit as legislators work toward a deadline in late March to adopt a nearly $6 billion state budget. The upcoming state financial year begins July 1.

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The proposed budget would be about 1.3 percent smaller than the budget for the current year. Leaders want to follow an often-ignored rule that says some money should be set aside into cash reserves.

Top lawmakers recommend an increase of $3.8 million for the Department of Public Safety. Most of that would pay to train new state troopers, and some would pay for salary increases that are already promised to officers in the department.

The proposed budget would affect several agencies by eliminating jobs that have been vacant at least six months. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Eugene “Buck” Clarke, a Republican from Hollandale, said that would cut about $40 million in spending during the coming year. He also said, though, that agency directors could retain some jobs if they are close to filling them.

“If you have a fish on the line, we would give that (job) back,” Clarke said.

Greer said some agencies are requesting additional money for the current year, which ends June 30. Clarke said one of the bigger requests is expected to come from Medicaid, the government insurance program for the needy. Clarke described the Medicaid request as “a moving target,” based on how many people are enrolled and how many services they use.