Mississippi's budget woes continue to keep legislators juggling the needs of the state with shortfalls in tax revenues. There's some growth but not enough.
By law, Mississippi's governor is required to balance the state's budget. During fiscal year 2017, Republican Governor Phil Bryant cut the budget by $56 million to correct an accounting error. Then he made another mid-year budget cut, reducing state agency budgets by $51 million and taking about $4 million from the rainy day fund. Bryant says he can't rule out more cuts.
"If it appears that we will not have sufficient revenues coming in I will make sufficient cuts to balance the budget or draw upon the rainy day fund. That's a simple act of the executive branch here and if we have to do that again we'll have to do it," said Bryant.
Bryant thinks the state's oil and gas industries will continue to pick-up, along with consumer confidence in spending. Republican Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall chairs the Finance Committee. He says state revenues are growing by 1.6 percent when they'd like to see growth closer to 3 percent. He says they're cutting state agency budgets for 2018. But they've set aside 2 percent out of the $6.1 billion dollar budget for the rainy day fund.
"The figures that I've seen this year we're having to cut a little bit in state agencies but we're also still maintaining that 2 percent set aside for emergencies hurricanes, tornadoes, those kinds of things," said Fillingane.
The senate has proposed cuts to most state agencies including the department of mental health and colleges and universities. House Democrat Karl Gibbs of Westpoint, is concerned about the impact of the cuts.
"And with all these budget cuts, it's affecting a lot of families and affecting a lot of lives," said Gibbs.
Gibbs supported a lottery bill that included money for roads and bridges but it didn't survive. Democrats say tax cuts to corporations hurts the state's bottom line.