A change in Mississippi's credit rating is alarming, but not a surprise according to the state treasurer.
Standard & Poors released a report this week changing Mississippi's credit rating from stable to negative. Republican State Treasurer Lynn Fitch says S & P stopped short of officially downgrading the state because of Governor Phil Bryant's budget cuts.
"They looked at all the cuts that the governor made. They allowed us to be put at only a negative outlook," said Fitch.
The negative outlook could make it more difficult to borrow money at a reasonable interest rate. S & P cites some of the state's challenges: weak revenue trends, implementing tax cuts without ways to fill the void, a sluggish economy and poor educational attainment. Fitch says, while the state is making progress with unemployment, Mississippi has the nation's highest poverty rate, relies heavily on federal funding and lags behind the country in job creation.
"If you begin to look at all the factors that S & P took into account that all builds into the whole. our workforce, the jobs. How are we going to grow our businesses," said Fitch.
S & P says the state's public employee retirement system is under funded. Fitch adds the state's third largest budget item is $485 million dollars in bond debt, too much for a small state. It's an issue Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, expressed frustration over.
"We've gone out and borrowed money like a credit card we doubled how much we owe in the past five years," said Hood.
Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves says revenue collections in March and April are rebounding, a hopeful sign.
"Which if they continue and of course two months is not a trend. But if they do continue I think we're going to continue to see positive economic growth and positive revenue growth accordingly," said Reeves.
State Treasurer Lynn Fitch says legislators are going to have to be more fiscally conservative to improve the state's credit rating.