State Spending Crisis?

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The 2003 Mississippi legislative session is over, but not a budgetary success, according to at least one state representative.

At a meeting of Lauderdale County elected officials Monday, Rep. Greg Snowden, said a so-called balanced budget isn't what it appears.

"That doesn't mean we're not spending more than we have coming in because we are doing that and have done that the last two or three years and we're about to be in a situation where we can't do that any more," Snowden said.

Snowden said there are so many future commitments built into the budget that next year will almost certainly be the state's day of financial reckoning.

"The budget that we're going to face next year is going to be very difficult," said Snowden, who represents District 83. "There's going to be one of two things we're going to have to do and that is find some new source of revenue, tax increase as it were, or make some pretty substantial cuts or some combination of the two."

Snowden said the problem is not the state's income, but its spending. He points to Medicaid as one of the problems. Snowden said it has to be brought under control or it will endanger education and every other aspect of the state budget. He added there could have been a solution to the money problem this year.

"Had we frozen the budget, in other words, had we not spent anymore this year than we had last year we'd have had upwards of $100 million additional money," Snowden said. "We wouldn't be talking about shortfall. Had we frozen everything but the teacher's pay raise, we would have better than broken even."

The legislature is not scheduled to meet again until January 2004.

Also Monday, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said there should be no need to raise taxes next year to pay for the state budget.

Musgrove said fat could be trimmed from government agencies if there is a need to stretch dollars to cover services.

The governor and most lawmakers are running for re-election this year.

Musgrove spoke in Jackson to members of the Mississippi School Boards Association.