State Budget Cut Strips Agencies Down To The Very Bare Bones
On Friday we were not surprised to learn that the state budget would be cut by another $20 million, stripping state agencies down to the very bare bones. We know, based on information provided to us by the various agency heads, that we are at the point now where vital services are going unmet due to budget constraints. Revenues are down dramatically.
Government exists to provide essential services – public safety, access to quality healthcare, good roads and bridges, excellent public schools. Each of these services requires revenue, and the revenue comes from the contributions of the citizens – “taxes.” When reducing the “footprint” of government, (while altogether not a bad idea in terms of reducing duplication and overspending) becomes a source of hurt for the citizens, it is time to step back and pay attention.
I am particularly concerned with the lack of funding that is preventing the State Department of Mental Health from providing much-needed services to some of the most vulnerable citizens in the state. There are few Mississippi families who are not in one way or the other affected by mental illness. The upsurge in opioid drug addictions, for example, is taking young people in the prime of their lives. The State Department of Mental Health is being forced to cut services in order to accommodate the budget shortfalls.
Attorney General Jim Hood sent $34.4 million in lawsuit recovery monies to the state’s general fund last week. He requested that a portion of the funds be designated to help shore up certain mental health services. I agree with this approach; however, at this writing there has been no indication that the legislative leadership feels the same.
Conference committees met last week and over the weekend to iron out differences between House and Senate versions of bills and to make final determinations on the budget bills. Their actions will be reflected when appropriation bills are finally passed.
Also last week, a number of measures were signed into law, including one that will allow local breweries to sell their products on site. This idea is welcomed by a number of businesses in the area. The Governor also signed a bill that requires schools to develop anti-bullying programs and a measure that enhances penalties against those who would kill an officer, firefighter or first responder in the line of duty.
If I can be of assistance in any way, please call on me. My local office telephone number is 662-647-3203 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. My mailing address is 1720 North Main St., Water Valley, MS, 38965.