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Legislators recommend slight cuts with fiscal 2020 general fund budget

CUTS: The Mississippi Legislature wants a slight cut to the state's general fund budget. Photo illustration by Steve Wilson

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee released its budgetary recommendations for fiscal 2020 Wednesday, promising a 1 percent overall cut from last year's appropriations.

There is about a $213.4 million difference between the legislative proposal and the one issued by Gov. Phil Bryant's office in November.

Despite the difference, both budgets agree on funding a new state trooper school. The legislative general fund budget proposal adds up to $6,053,438,138 while the governor's proposal amounts to $6,266,867,616.

Both budgets agree on a predicted 2.6 percent general fund revenue increase, but the Legislature wants a 1 percent overall cut while the governor's office wants a 2.8 percent increase. The Mississippi Adequate Education program appropriation for K-12 education could receive a slight 0.42 percent increase from 2019 to $2,207,288,543.

The legislative committee also recommends that the Mississippi Development Authority's budget be cut by 22.1 percent from 2019 appropriations. The Legislature wants to defund most vacant positions in state government and delete 3,011 vacant positions.

Bryant's budget proposal for the next fiscal year would appropriate $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.

Only the governor's budget will has extra money ($75 million) appropriated to pay for an increased rate of employer (taxpayer) contributions to the state's defined benefit pension program known as the The Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi. The PERS board voted to increase the employer contribution by 1.65 percent this summer.

Only the Legislature can vote to increase employee contributions to PERS and that's not likely in an election year.

The legislative budget has $790 million in general fund revenue that is not allocated that could be used for that purpose or providing teacher or state employee pay hikes.

Mississippi's general fund budget is one of the last tasks handled by the Legislature before it leaves town in April. The budget is constructed as a series of funding bills for each state agency for the governor to sign into law. The new budget will go into effect on July 1.

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