Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday morning he will not hesitate to call a special legislative session if reserve funds are needed to balance the budget when the fiscal year ends June 30.
Bryant, in a radio interview aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, said he is assessing June revenue figures and will soon determine whether a special session is needed.
“June is our biggest month for tax collection. We could be short for (fiscal year 2016),” Bryant said. “If that happens, I have the option of calling a special session or reaching into the Rainy Day Fund, which is what it’s there for, and making sure we balance FY16. We won’t hesitate to do that. I think that’s something the Legislature understands that we need to make sure that we’ve got a balanced budget. If that needs to happen, we’ll do it very quickly in one day and get in and out.”
Bryant already has pulled $45.2 million from the Rainy Day Fund this fiscal year to offset lower-than-expected revenue, but he only has the legal authority to pull $50 million per fiscal year from that fund. If more than $4.8 million is needed from that fund to balance the budget, the Legislature would have to convene in Jackson to sign off on that action.
Days before next fiscal year’s budget was adopted by the Legislature, lawmakers passed the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act, which eliminates inter-agency charging for services and sweeps certain special funds into the general fund. Last week, Attorney General Jim Hood released opinions to three state department heads stating that parts of the law were illegal and that special funds of some agencies could not be touched by the state.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has maintained that the new law, which goes into effect July 1, will operate within the bounds of the state constitution, despite Hood’s claims.
In Wednesday morning’s interview, Bryant called Hood’s opinions “unfortunate” but agreed that there are “some glitches” in the law, even comparing the problems experienced thus far to NASA’s Apollo space program in the 1960s and 1970s.
“This is a total change that we’ve made in the budgeting process in the state of Mississippi, which has not worked very well (in the past),” Bryant said. “So when you totally change a system like this, it’s going to have some glitches, just as the Apollo program did. I think in the future you’ll see a more accounted and transparent budget system, and that’s what the people want.”