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Governor Bryant wants teacher pay raise, trooper school in his proposed budget

BUDGET: Gov. Phil Bryant wants a teacher pay raise and a new state trooper school in his proposed budget. Photo by Steve Wilson

Gov. Phil Bryant released his budget proposal for the next fiscal year last week that would spend $170 million more than last year and includes money for a teacher pay raise, more money for college student financial aid and another trooper school.

According to the governor's proposed general fund budget, the state's tax revenues are expected to increase by 2.6 percent and Bryant recommends that no agency's budget be cut for fiscal 2020. According to estimates, the state will have $5.802 billion in tax revenue for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The governor's proposed budget adds up to $6.266 billion, a $170,267,056 increase from last year.

The biggest chunk of the increased budget is due to the state's struggling defined benefit pension system for state and local employees. The governor wants $75 million to help pay increased employer pension contributions for state employees and this represents 44 percent of the budget increase.

The Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi board increased the taxpayer contribution to the state's retirement fund from 15.75 percent of payroll to 17.4 percent in July after several studies showed that the pension fund's funding level would not reach its oft-stated goal of 80 percent fully funded by 2042.

Bryant wants $50 million for a second teacher pay increase to be phased in over two years, a proposal that Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has voiced support.

The budget also includes $26 million for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services to help increase staffing and repair the department's lagging computer system in the wake of the Olivia Y lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of six foster children in 2004.

The plaintiffs argued that the state's foster care system didn't do enough to protect children in its custody and provide necessary services and a settlement was reached in 2016 to provide changes to the state's foster care system.

Bryant also wants $8.5 million for additional student aid at the state's community colleges and universities.

The governor also wants an additional $7 million to be spent on pay hikes for corrections employees and another $7 million for a new state trooper school. According to state data, 160 of the state's 489 state troopers are eligible for retirement.

There would also be an additional $1.5 million for the State Crime Lab’s Medical Examiner, which has only two doctors performing 1,500 autopsies per year.

Next in the budget process is the unveiling of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's proposal, which will happen on December 5.

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