Budget Projection Still Tight

By: Mike McDaniel, staff reports Email
By: Mike McDaniel, staff reports Email

Work will begin on the Mississippi state budget later this month. Local lawmakers say things look better but there's still a lot of work to do.

State Rep. Greg Snowden of Meridian, the House Speaker Pro Tem, talked about the state budget at Monday's meeting of the Lauderdale County Council of Governments.

The last several years have been particularly difficult, during this tough economic time. Snowden says things will still be tough for some time.

"Revenues are up, but our needs are up as well," Snowden said. "So it's still going to be a challenging budget year. We're hoping for the best."

The full legislature will have to approve the budget when it is presented during the next legislative session, which begins in January.

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves agreed that coming up with a budget will be a challenge. He also sent a message to state agencies.

"We've got to continue to hold down state spending," said Reeves as he addressed the Jackson Rotary Club.

Reeves says if the state sees any revenue growth it's going to be slow.

"It's going to be a very difficult budget year," said Reeves.

His assessment comes just one week before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee begins its week long budget process hearing for fiscal year 2014.

Beginning Monday, the committee will hear budget presentations from state agencies and get financial overviews from state economists.

"The reality is that as our state economist has said on many occasions he's not expecting us to meet revenues similar to those in 2008 until maybe 2015," said Reeves.

Because of that, Reeves says just about every state agency that received a budget cut this year, can expect another cut next year.

"The reason virtually every state agency took a cut is so we could invest in our priorities which are education and public safety," said Reeves.

To maintain those priorities and cover the loss of federal dollars which are going away, Reeves is urging agency directors to come up with efficiencies.

Democratic committee member, Rep. George Flaggs, agrees agencies need to present a bare minimum, but isn't ready to start handing out cuts.

"I do think that the agencies need to come in to the budget as honest as they possibly can as it relates to their needs but I'm not ready to say that we ought to be looking at cutting agencies," said Flaggs.

"Coming and asking for a huge wish list which is going to cost tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars is probably not going to get very far," said Reeves.

State leaders are also waiting to see what type of effect Hurricane Isaac will have on revenue projections and whether storm preparation sales will help give a boost.

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