Lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to cut state taxes by more than $300 million over the next 12 years. While at the same time, slashing state agency budgets.
Budget writers in the House and Senate worked until the final seconds of yesterday’s midnight deadline to file a tax cut plan.
No lawmakers would go on the record about the plan, but a summary of what’s been dubbed the “Taxpayer Pay Raise Act” was made available.
Essentially, it will phase out the three percent bracket of the individual income tax and the state franchise tax starting in fiscal year 2018 that begins July of next year.
Lawmakers also negotiated a roughly $6.2 billion dollar general fund budget for the fiscal year 2017 that begins this July.
With lower than expected income plaguing this year’s tax revenue’s, House Appropriations Chair, Republican Herb Frierson of Poplarville sums up the budget situation in one word.
“Austere,” says Frierson. “It’s all the cutting we had to do. It’s not a great budget, but it’s balanced. We lived within our means, and we held money back for future years if the revenue decline continues.”
Democratic Representative Adrienne Wooten believes the cuts are drastic. She says the state should look to the rainy day fund to make up some of the budget gaps.
“We’re voting on people livelihoods,” says Wooten. “We’re voting on the quality of life that they can provide to their families. We have money available to us and we’re not accessing that resource. I feel like we should be doing a better job for the citizens of the state of Mississippi.
The state Department of Health is perhaps the agency hit hardest by the cuts. Lawmakers voted to slash the D.O.H. budget by 13.6 percent. That amounts to a decrease of about 5 million in state support. All of that is on top of a budget deficit and mid-year cut.
Doctor Mary Currier is the State Health Officer. She says her agency has already had to cut jobs.
“We won’t be able to get out of without reducing staff, sending people home,” says Currier. “We’re going to have to look at everything that we do that’s unfunded. If there are things that the feds do that we’ve been doing for a while and don’t get paid enough to do we’re going to have to stop doing them and let the fed do it.”
Lawmakers hope to have the entirety of the state budget passed by Thursday.