Lawmakers Tackling Budgets

By: Ashley Conroy
By: Ashley Conroy

It's no secret; by the end of this fiscal year, the state of Mississippi will no longer receive federal stimulus dollars.

Lawmakers are meeting this week to start on the 2012 budget. They estimate this could mean $500 million less going in to the 2012 budget year.

It's the first day of meetings for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a week-long effort to try to sort out next year's budget with state agencies.

"We've got to really do good budgets and to make best use of the dollars available," said House Speaker Billy McCoy.

With almost 3 months in to FY 2011's budget and FY 2012 on the table, lawmakers say the catch here is that federal stimulus funds will run out in 2011.

"But we realize again that there's about half a billion dollars of federal stimulus money that will go away," said Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant.

As agencies present their efforts as to where more money might be needed, Bryant says the state legislature won't have any room to provide additional funds.

"And this year, we think they'll be asking for about $607 million worth of new money, as terrible as that is to believe in these terrible economic times," said Bryant.

As Gov. Haley Barbour sliced 12 percent from last year's budget, the budget this year was $500 million less at $5.5 billion.

And though revenue reports so far show the state slowly climbing out of the red, lawmakers say it's too early to say that agencies won't have to pay the price.

Meantime, the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks reported Monday laying off 19 employees total state-wide for budget reasons.

Eleven of those were working at George Payne Kossar State Park near Enid. This park could now be closed indefinitely.

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