Mississippi lawmakers will be working through the weekend to craft one of the largest budgets in state’s history.
Roughly six billion dollars, that’s the amount of money lawmakers have to work with to shape the budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1. This year’s tax revenue is the largest in state history, but lawmakers say there is still not enough to fully fund some government program.
Republican Buck Clarke of Hollandale is the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He say’s lawmakers will be as fair as possible in crafting a budget.
“For my position, as much as I would love to have one single priority, I’ve got to look at everybody,” says Clarke. “I’ve got to be just as concerned about social workers at the Department of Human Services as I.H.L as Mental Health, just the whole budget. I’ve really got to have my eye on every one of them and try to do the best job we can.”
Some lawmakers say the budget negotiations will leave a number of government programs out in the cold. House Minority Leader, Democrat Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto says there are a number of things that he would like to see done that probably won’t come to fruition.
“You know, I’d like to see us get some healthcare funds from the federal government like we’re supposed to, get education fully funded,” Moak says. “I’d like to see a better teacher pay raise. I’d actually like to see an assistant teacher pay raise but I’m afraid none of that’s going to happen. What we’re going to do is we’re just going to cover what we owe. I think that’s about as far as we’re going to get this year because that’s all the money we have.”
While the negotiations are scheduled for this weekend, lawmakers have already approved some of the state’s largest budget items, including $2.5 billion for K-12 public education. Lawmakers have until Easter to finalize next year’s budget.