Senate, House pass deficit bills

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The Senate and House both passed measures to fill in budget holes at several state agencies this week.

The Senate passed multiple appropriations bills Thursday morning ahead of the Feb. 22 deadline, including one deficit bill that delivers additional funds to a handful of state agencies and departments for the current fiscal year.

Senate Bill 3015 would provide deficit appropriations for the Division of Medicaid, Department of Revenue and Department of Finance and Administration. The bill also contains placeholder text in the event an appropriations bill for the BP settlement funds is introduced.

Under the bill, the Division of Medicaid would receive $40 million in additional funding this year. A spokesperson for the agency declined to comment. A separate House Bill 1527 would provide Medicaid a deficit appropriation of $43 million for this fiscal year.

In January, Medicaid asked the Legislature for $75 million to plug budget gaps, but later increased the deficit appropriation request to $88.9 million.

During the last session, the Legislature appropriated $950 million to Medicaid, $63 million short of what the agency had requested. In September, agencies were hit with a series of mid-year cuts to address a $57 million “accounting error” that overestimated expected revenue to the state. Medicaid’s cut was $15.4 million.

Fred Anklam Jr., Mississippi Today

Mississippi State Capitol

The Senate recommendations for Fiscal Year 2018 would appropriate $909 million to Medicaid, but an appropriations bill for the agency has yet to be taken up on the floor.

Wednesday, in addition to the deficit funds for Medicaid, the House approved appropriations totaling $4.8 million for the Department of Finance and Administration, $3.9 million the attorney general’s office and $4 million for Alcorn State University.

The money for Alcorn State is to build a reverse osmosis membrane-type water treatment plant to replace an outdated system that is corroding.

Rep. Mark Baker, who joined the Appropriations Committee this year, objected to the one-time expenditure for a capital expense as well as to paying certain settlement costs incurred by the attorney general’s office. This included a $3,000 payment related to Attorney General Jim Hood’s recent prosecution of Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith.

“The AG wasn’t sued, the District Attorney of Hinds County was sued,” Baker said during a committee meeting.