State legislative leaders Thursday proposed cuts to most state agencies totaling $195 million next fiscal year in fashioning a $6.1 billion budget proposal.
The proposal, if adopted by the 2017 Legislature, would cut state spending by 3 percent overall.
The Child Protection Agency, debt services, highway patrol officers, K-12 education, vocational education and foster care would be safe from cuts, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a press release.
The budget proposal comes after groups of lawmakers spent weeks this summer and fall studying budgets – line by line in many cases – of 13 major state agencies with the ultimate goal of identifying and eliminating “unnecessary expenditures.”
“We have made difficult but solid budgetary decisions,” House Speaker Philip Gunn said in a statement released jointly with Reeves. “This recommendation is in line with our continued goal of budgeting within our means. We continue to be disciplined in our budgeting by staying within the revenues received.”
While revenue collections have not yet met expectations this current fiscal year, which began July 1, economists projected a rise in revenue collections for the remainder of the fiscal year. For that reason, officials including Gov. Phil Bryant expressed optimism last month that the current year’s state budget would not be cut, at least through the end of the 2017 legislative session.
The Legislature’s proposal released Thursday could be impacted if economic factors change between now and when lawmakers are expected to approve the 2018 budget in March. Appropriations committees in both the House and Senate will use this proposal beginning in January to craft individual appropriations bills for state agencies and produce a final overall state budget by late March.
Through the working groups, lawmakers identified a number of “efficiencies” to implement in the 2018 budget. Those include:
• Implement a yearlong moratorium on state vehicle purchases, saving $19 million.
• Delete 1,999 vacant state jobs and their scheduled funding
• Limit travel by state workers, saving $12 million.
• Eliminate some of the roughly $40 million in spending on remediation programs at community colleges and universities, redirecting $4.5 million to K-12 education
• Remove state employees from personnel board regulations, saving $13 million.
The budget proposal also makes room for two percent of the overall budget, or $115.5 million, to be set aside into reserve funds. Though that action is required by law, legislators suspended the 98 Percent Rule in order to allow its total proposed expenditures to exceed the General Fund revenue estimates for Fiscal Years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017.
The Legislature’s budget proposal nearly matches the governor’s $6.2 billion budget proposal, which he released in late November. Proposed cuts for most state agencies made by Bryant appear similar to cuts proposed by legislative leaders.
“Ultimately, a budget reflects priorities, and this budget represents how I believe government can use taxpayer resources to help move Mississippi forward,” Bryant said in his proposal. “I recognize that not everything in this proposal will ultimately be adopted.”
Legislature’s FY18 budget proposal for largest budgets
• K-12 Education: $2.2 billion (no change from FY17)
• Medicaid: $909.3 million (2.5% less than FY17)
• Debt Service: $392.2 million (no change from FY17)
• Institutes of Higher Learning – General Support: $337.0 million (6.7% less than FY17)
• Corrections: $309.9 million (3.3% less than FY17)
• Community Colleges – Support: $242.5 million (6.5% less than FY17)
• Mental Health: $233.2 million (3.2% less than FY17)
• General Education: $174.8 million (7.8% more than FY17)
• Institutes of Higher Learning – University of Mississippi Medical Center: $173.8 million (2.2% less than FY17)