Taxpayers’ tab for special session: At least $68,720

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Next week’s special session of the Legislature, which Gov. Phil Bryant has said could occur on Tuesday to balance the state’s budget, would cost taxpayers at least $68,720.

Multiple factors must be considered when calculating the total cost of a special legislative session. Lawmakers would receive the usual $140 per diem plus another $75 a day. Additionally, they would receive reimbursement for travel to Jackson and back to their homes. They also receive stipends for FICA taxes and retirement.

Should the special session run longer than one day, the state would fork out an additional $47,674 a day (which would not include travel costs calculated into the one-day session). The numbers were shared with Mississippi Today by House clerks and Laura Hipp, spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

Gov. Phil Bryant

Gil Ford photography

Gov. Phil Bryant

Bryant’s office said Friday that the governor may call a special session for Tuesday to balance the state’s 2016 fiscal year, which ends June 30. Bryant has been assessing June revenue numbers daily to determine whether a dip into reserve funds is necessary to balance any potential shortfalls for the fiscal year.

“After reviewing the latest revenue collections, Gov. Bryant has developed a contingency plan that includes a special session on Tuesday, if necessary,” Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler said Friday. “He will make a final decision Monday morning. Any special session would be for the sole purpose of closing out fiscal year 2016.”

Should the state not rake in between $725 million-$750 million in revenue this month, which would be a record, the state’s budget would be unbalanced. The most likely option for the governor is to dip into the state’s Rainy Day Fund. 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 sign off on that action in the special session.

Many Democratic leaders and even some Republicans have publicly pleaded for a special session to address budget concerns for not only the current fiscal year but also for next fiscal year. Bryant’s office said next week’s potential special session would address the current fiscal year only.

Since Bryant was elected governor in 2012, he has called five special sessions. The most recent was during the regular session this year to get legislative approval for a tax package that would bring the Continental Tire plant to Hinds County and a shipbuilding plant to the Gulf Coast.

He called two in 2014 to get approval for disaster relief following a tornado outbreak and to increase road funding for the state. He called two in 2013 to deal with that year’s budget and approve a tax package for the Yokohama tire plant in West Point.

Mississippi Today reporter Zachary Oren Smith contributed to this report.