Meridian, Miss. Topics discussed at the Lauderdale Council of Governments meeting included a proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget for Mississippi and what it could mean for the state.
House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden praised the submitted budget as the most fiscally responsible one he has seen in 14 years in the Mississippi House.
Snowden is one of the 14 members of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee which developed the proposal. In it, he says one of the big winners is higher education.
"Overall in education, particularly in community colleges and in IHL (Institutions of Higher Learning), those are significant increases," Snowden said. "The Adequate Education Program is level-funded. We have some decreases in some areas, such as corrections and Medicaid, are two that come to mind. Overall, the entire state support budget will increase by about $36 million."
Snowden says another highlight for the budget proposal is the fact that it does not call for the use of any one-time funds, that may come lawsuits for example, to pay for any reoccurring expenses. He also says that the proposed budget has factored in funding to accommodate needs which may arise from the Affordable Care Act.
"One of the things that we did in our budget was to set aside $30 million as a contingency really for unforeseeable Affordable Healthcare Act costs," said Snowden. "We know that Obamacare is going to cost the state more money, regardless of whether we expand Medicaid or not. And so we've set aside $30 million in our budget proposal as a contingency to cover those costs that we know are coming."
The JLBC proposal has not been adopted. The full Mississippi House and Senate will consider it when they convene in January.
State lawmakers are expected to pass a balanced budget in late March or early April. The next fiscal year will start July 1. At that time Mississippi lawmakers estimate that the state's revenue will be up at least 2.7 from the current year. The total anticipated budget for FY 2015 is more than $5.3 billion.