Long Road Ahead for FY 2015 Budget

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Meridian, Miss. Now that budget hearings are over, Mississippi lawmakers face a long process of deciding how to spend tax dollars for Fiscal 2015, which begins July 1.

During four days of hearings last week, top members of the House and Senate quizzed agency leaders about how money is already being spent.

They questioned department of public safety executives about pay raises and vehicles. They grilled the forestry commission about multi-year financing to buy radios for a statewide emergency communications system.

The Department of Education sought full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, as required by law.

"If we're able to grow by as much as 5 percent for our state revenue, we would have an additional $300 million available to expend in the coming year," said Rep. Greg Snowden, House Speaker Pro Tem. "Now the bad news is these state agencies have come forth with about $1 billion in new requests, so obviously we wont be able to nearly come close to meeting all the requests."

Mississippi's 2015 budget is expected to approach $6 billion.

The next budget meeting is in November to discuss recommendations by the Legislative Budget Office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.