Money an Issue for Mississippi

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State agencies are seeking a record $1.8 billion increase in funding for the 2006 budget despite expectations of minimal growth in state revenues. The requests are a 33 percent overall increase for the budget year beginning July 1, even though the state has millions of dollars to make up before this fiscal year ends.

Sen. Jack Gordon, a member of the budget writing team, said the requests are the highest the state has ever seen. The total requested increase for public education is $385 million, the largest requested increase in state dollars from any agency.

The Department of Education received an estimated $1.7 billion for this fiscal year.

The second largest increase is $237 million for higher education, now operating with a $542 million general fund budget.

Medicaid was third at $108 million. Its current general fund budget is $247 million.

Medicaid Director Dr. Warren Jones warned, however, his department's increase could top $270 million, depending on federal allocations under review.