Bryant to cut budget for second time this year, pull from rainy day fund

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Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant announced Wednesday morning that he plans to cut the state’s budget for the second time this year.

After slim state revenue figures were released last week, Bryant told reporters this morning that he plans to cut between 0.43 percent and 1 percent on most state budgets for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The budget adjustments total $35 million.

Bryant will also pull $10 million from the state’s $375 million “rainy day fund” to be used for the current year to offset budget shortfalls.

“As governor, I am required by state law to impose budget cuts when revenue collections do not meet our estimates,” Bryant wrote in a letter Wednesday to the Department of Finance and Administration. “To accomplish this level of reduction, I am mandating that additional cuts equivalent to 0.43 percent be made to most agencies’ budgets.”

Bryant said he will not cut budgets of the Mississippi Schools for the Blind and Deaf, veterans’ affairs, the state military and student financial aid.

“We left money in the 2016 budget that went unspent because we knew this was coming,” said Rep. Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville and House appropriations chairman. “This was totally expected.”

In January, Bryant cut $39.8 million from the budget and pulled $35.2 million from the rainy day fund. In a letter to the Mississippi Department of Revenue in January, Bryant wrote that he was hopeful those cuts would hold through the fiscal year.

“However, additional cuts or transfers from the rainy day fund may be required later,” Bryant wrote.

Lawmakers scrambled Sunday and Monday to pass appropriations for next fiscal year, slashing already lean budgets for the majority of the state’s departments and agencies. The cuts were said to be so extreme for some agencies that layoffs were possible.

Accurate information about the legislative cuts was not distributed to lawmakers before they were asked to vote on the bills, and a final breakdown of next year’s budget has not been released by the Legislative Budget Office.

Bryant also indicated on Wednesday that he would study legislation that would cut taxes in the state by $415 million.  That bill passed both houses on Monday and awaits signature on the governor’s desk. Bryant said Wednesday he is unsure whether he’ll sign the bill.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves declined to immediately comment Wednesday morning when approached by media.