How budget cuts differ between Bryant, Legislature

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Mississippi State Capitol

Mississippi State Capitol

Separate Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposals from Gov. Phil Bryant and legislative leaders would cut millions of dollars in spending by state agencies.

But how each arrives at its bottom line differs significantly, a Mississippi Today comparison of the two proposals shows.

Prominent budget writers say cuts are imminent for most state agencies — and some agencies will see severe cuts.

The cuts being proposed must go through the legislative appropriations process, thus allowing agency heads and lobbyists to argue for more funding before final appropriations decisions are made.

The governor proposes trimming the overall general fund budget by just 0.5 percent, or $29.3 million, while lawmakers propose cutting the budget by 3 percent, or $195.3 million.

“This recommendation is in line with our continued goal of budgeting within our means,” said House Speaker Philip Gunn, who serves as chairman of the budget committee. “We have made difficult, but solid, budgetary decisions. We’ve also incorporated ideas generated from the budget working group meetings that occurred during the summer and fall.”

The proposals are released weeks before each legislative session and are intended to give lawmakers a rough template for crafting appropriations bills for each state agency and department.

Agency officials and lobbyists will plead their cases with House and Senate Appropriations committees and individual lawmakers in the early parts of the 2017 session, which begins Jan. 3.

But observers of the budget process note that after months of close legislative scrutiny of 13 agencies’ specific expenditures, lawmakers could be less likely than in recent years to open the state’s pocketbooks.

Here are some notable differences in the proposals from the governor and the legislators:

• Child Protective Services: Lawmakers propose a 12.76 percent cut, or $14.3 million, while the governor proposes a 13.6% increase, or $13.6 million.

• Department of Revenue: Lawmakers propose a 19.63 percent cut, or $9.4 million, while the governor would increase the budget by 8.4 percent, or $3.4 million.

• Department of Audit: Lawmakers propose a 15.95 percent cut, or $1.46 million, while the governor would cut 1.8 percent, or $167,000.

• Mississippi Developmental Authority: Lawmakers propose a 37.49 percent cut, or $10.5 million, while the governor would cut just 1.8 percent, or $362,000.

• Total K-12 education: Lawmakers propose a 0.39 percent increase, or $9.7 million, from last year, while the governor proposes a very slight increase of 0.04 percent, or $33,351. Notably, lawmakers would cut Mississippi Schools for Blind and Deaf budget by 14.62 percent, or $1.5 million, while the governor would level fund that line item.

• Institutes for Higher Learning (IHL): Lawmakers propose a 5.34 percent cut, or $39.7 million, while the governor proposes a 1.7 percent cut, or $10.9 million.

• Community Colleges: Lawmakers propose a 6.5 percent cut, or $17.3 million, while the governor would level fund.

• Department of Health: Lawmakers propose an 8.24 percent cut, or $5.1 million, to the Department of Health’s budget, while the governor proposes just a 1.8 percent cut, or $1.1 million.

• Department of Mental Health: Lawmakers propose a 3.27 percent cut, or $7.8 million, for the department, while the governor would level fund.

• Department of Human Services: Lawmakers propose an 8.17 percent cut, or $4.8 million, while the governor proposes a 1.8 percent cut, or $1.08 million.

• Attorney General’s Office: Lawmakers propose a 5.28 percent cut, or $1.4 million, while the governor proposes a 1.8 percent cut, or $506,564.

• Secretary of State’s Office: Lawmakers propose a 7.5 percent cut, or $1.18 million, while the governor would cut 1.8 percent, or $289,000.

• Department of Agriculture and Commerce: Lawmakers propose a 6.96 percent cut, or $528,000, while the governor would cut by 1.8 percent, or $138,000.

• Department of Insurance: Lawmakers propose a 10 percent cut, or $1.28 million, while the governor would cut 1.8 percent, or $331,000.

• Mississippi Emergency Management Agency: Lawmakers propose an 8.43 percent cut, or $266,926, to general support budget and a 7.10 percent cut, or $42,000, to the disaster response budget, while governor would level fund both.