Budget Committee Focuses on FY '14

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Mississippi lawmakers are strapping in for what they expect to be another difficult budget year as they begin the work of laying the financial blueprint to shape it.

During the week long meeting, state agencies will meet with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee to present what they hope to see for the next budget year, which begins in July of next year.

"What you've got to expect is people are going to ask for way more than we're going to give," said Sen. Terry Brown of Columbus, a Republican member of the committee..

Brown says with a lot of federal money going away and another tight budget year expected, lawmakers just can't hand out more money, which means state agencies should brace themselves.

"I think we're going to see some cuts for sure. There's no doubt about it," Brown said.

Democratic committee member, Rep. George Flaggs, says he expects to see about $1.3 billion in requests from state agencies. That's money he says the state doesn't have.

"That's a lot of money when we only have about $300 million in surplus," said Flaggs. "So, we're going to have to see how we can take that and reduce it down into meeting the needs of the state."

To help fund priorities lawmakers say it's crucial for those agencies to come up with efficiencies to help save money. Despite a not so wonderful outlook on state revenues Flaggs says there is some optimism for the state's economy.

"It's coming back; it's going in the right direction but it's moving slow and we're going to have to budget ourselves according to the growth of the economy," Flaggs said.

With only a few days to do that, Brown says the budget will be a working one, right up until its final adoption during the 2013 session.

"What we do today is not going to have a thing in the world to do with what we do during the session, but it gives the agencies the opportunity to come in and make their requests and their priorities," said Brown. "And we can work with them from that point on."

Once completed, the committee will come back in November to try and finalize estimates and give agencies a better picture of what they can expect.