Both Mississippi budget proposals hold the line on state spending for next year
Gov. Phil Bryant and the Republican-led Mississippi Legislature are singing from the same hymnal when it comes to the budget, as both seek to hold the line on government spending ahead of the upcoming legislative session.
The Legislature proposes to spend $5.9 billion for fiscal 2019, which starts July 1. That's a $76 million cut from last year's budget or a 1.3 percent decrease.
The governor's budget would be slightly more than $6 billion, or a difference of only $6.7 million from the legislative proposal. His budget would represent a 0.5 percent cut, or $32 million less than what the Legislature appropriated last year.
Each November, the governor releases an executive budget recommendation while the Legislature releases its own. While neither is binding, they provide a road map for appropriators and show the direction that the governor and legislative leaders aim for in the coming session, which starts in January.
Both proposals agree on ending the practice of using non-recurring money to spend on recurring expenses, holding K-12 education spending at least year's level (more than $2.2 billion), reenacting the two percent rule (spending only 98 percent of state revenue to provide a larger reserve fund) and appropriating money for both a new state trooper school and salary for the new troopers.
Bryant also proposes to provide $7 million for free community college tuition for an unspecified number of students, which the Legislature doesn't have in its proposal. The Legislature would also cut 4 percent from the state's community colleges and universities, while the governor's proposal freezes spending at least year's level.
This year's budget will mark two budget cycles of reductions. Before last year's budget was passed with a seven percent cut, general fund appropriations had increased 26 percent since 2012. During that same time, the U.S. inflation rate decreased from 3 percent in 2011 down to 2.5 percent.
One way the legislature's proposal aims to slice the budget is to eliminate 2,687 vacant positions in state government, reduce the amount of travel and contractual services for state agencies and spending down agency balances (some agencies retain balances from year to year in their funds) whenever possible.
Mississippi has one of the nation's largest public sectors as measured by Governing magazine, as the state ranks 10th in the number of full-time state employees (120) per 10,000 residents. In comparison, Arkansas has 119 full-time state employees per 10,000 residents, Louisiana has 97, Alabama has 91 and Tennessee has 65.
The biggest percentage line item reductions from the Legislature's budget proposal include:
76 percent cut for the Department of Marine Resources.
38 percent cut for the Mississippi Development Authority.
31 percent cut for the Department of Archives and History.
The biggest percentage line item reductions from the governor's proposal include:
25 percent cut for Mississippi Public Broadcasting
15 percent cut for the Arts Commission