Continued Anemic Revenues Mean Most Agencies Face Cuts In Coming Fiscal Year
Last week’s House activity was primarily spent on appropriation bills for state agencies’ use in Fiscal year 2018. It was a sobering exercise due to the fact that most budgets experienced cuts. Everything from the Health Department to the Attorney General’s Office has been affected by the continued anemic revenues to the state coffers.
At appropriation fund levels adopted by the Senate last week, the Mental Health Department will suffer a multi-million dollar appropriation cut, if all current circumstances hold true. This agency takes care of one of our most vulnerable populations. It is our duty to make sure they can function as effectively as possible. When the House considers the Mental Health appropriation in the next few weeks, I hope that there will be a concerted bipartisan effort to stop drastic cuts to this department.
The Institutions of Higher Learning and the Community and Junior Colleges each will suffer significant appropriation cuts, according to current appropriations. If there is ever any hope for Mississippi to recover economic stability and thrive, it will be through the efforts and successes of our young people. We should be offering them every opportunity and an excellent affordable college education.
It is true that we are passing appropriation bills that we know will be adjusted in some way by the end of session. Once the largest chunk of the budget is determined, then everything else will have to be readjusted to fit it. That large chunk is the school funding piece. There is still nothing definitive about the school funding plan; however, we do know that some members are working on crafting it. There has been speculation that a special session within the current session will be called to address the school funding issue, since the initial bill deadline has passed. However, we expect the funding plan to be rolled out with little time for study or debate. Many of us believe that fully funding MAEP for several years will provide a true picture of whether or not that formula is indeed broken and in need of repair.
According to State Economist Darrin Webb, the economic outlook for Mississippi is not much brighter in the coming months. We have experienced a slower recovery from the Great Recession than most states. Mississippi is also experiencing a population decrease due to outward migration, Mr. Webb said. All of these factors are contributing to lack of funding for our state government.
Among the ideas floated during the opening days of the session was that of funding a comprehensive approach to maintaining and repairing our crumbling road and bridge infrastructure. While HB 480, passed by the House earlier this year, had an earmark for some additional funding for road and bridge work, there is no guarantee that the bill will survive in the Senate.
On a lighter note, the House did pass an appropriation for a trooper school, a move that is necessary for public safety. If the Senate concurs, we will begin to refill the depleted ranks of those we depend on to make our citizens safe. I strongly supported this measure.
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