Tough financial times dictate more budget cuts at the state level in Mississippi. State agencies, like East Mississippi State Hospital, are bracing for the worst.
EMSH is currently the third largest employer in Lauderdale County.
The hospital Monday hosted a legislative luncheon for state lawmakers from east central Mississippi.
The purpose was not to ask for more funding, but to thank lawmakers for current funds, and ask for help in avoiding further cuts.
However, according to state lawmakers, this will likely be impossible.
"We are estimated to be $310,000,000 below where we expected to be," said state Rep. Greg Snowden of Meridian. "And the upshot of that is that every state agency, no matter how prioritized it is, is going to have to feel some of that impact."
The impact will hurt East Mississippi State Hospital, which has already had to undergo two budget cuts, totaling a 5% decrease in funding for this year.
"If there's another round of cuts, then we'll probably have to freeze hiring," said EMSH director Charles Carlisle. "Look at no promotions, no benchmarks, no things like that for our employees."
During the next round of budget cuts, all state agencies are expected to be cut by the exact same amount. East Mississippi State Hospital will be among those affected. Lawmakers say the next round could take place in March.
"We could see as much as a 3% to 4% additional cut, possibly by the end of the fiscal year," said state Sen. Terry Burton of Newton. "It could be a little less or it could be a little more."
"My biggest fear is that the services we provide to people like at this institution, at East Mississippi State Hospital, don't lose what we need to keep giving them," said state Sen. Videt Carmichael of Meridian.
Lawmakers told Newscenter 11 that with getting a tax increase passed on cigarettes is more than just an option. They say it's a necessity.
"It's going to be a tax on cigarettes. I'm not sure for what amount but it's definitely going to be a tax on cigarettes," said state Sen. Sampson Jackson of Kemper County.
Lawmakers are projecting that a $1.00 pack tax increase on cigarettes could generate more than $200 million to help with Mississippi's shortfall.
Recently the state House approved the tax increase. Debate is expected in the state Senate concerning how the money should be used.
This bill still isn't a done deal. Before being enacted into law, it must be approved by the Senate and the governor.