Legislative leaders on Sunday released a first and likely final draft of next year’s general fund budget — a $6 billion budget plan that is $329 million less than the current fiscal year budget.

Cuts for the next fiscal year affect a vast majority of state agencies and departments.

“I’m proud of the work our committee does,” Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee, said Sunday night. “The discussion for why we have this revenue amount is a discussion for another day. We basically said, ‘This is how much we have, so let’s discuss how much we have to appropriate.’ That’s what we did.”

Click here to see the full proposed fiscal year 2018 budget broken down by agency and department.

A small group of lawmakers, behind closed doors, worked on the budget well into Saturday night. They sent state agencies’ appropriations bills to the floor Sunday, where 78 were approved by the House and Senate.

However, 26 bills were recommitted to conference committee Sunday, meaning the final appropriations amounts for those agencies could change between now and Monday night’s deadline. But two budget officers said on Sunday it is very unlikely the numbers will change.

Many of those recommitted bills were dummy, or placeholder, bills with agencies’ appropriations for the next year at 0.

“People were working feverishly last night, and when that 8 p.m. deadline approached, we decided to pass dummy versions just to keep them alive,” Clarke said. “We’ll work through those tomorrow.”

In the Senate, several Democrats voiced concerns about the widespread cuts.

“The tension I sense this week as we look at this budget trainwreck is this: Do we want to shrink the size of government? If so, then be proud of it,” said Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson. “But what I see, at UMMC and universities and community colleges, we’ll go to them and say, ‘We love you, we’ll do all we can for you.’ But then we continue to give away the store.”

The budget is being finalized this weekend after state economists on Friday lowered revenue estimates for next fiscal year. Lawmakers were told only then that they had to cut $174.6 million more overall than initially planned.

That news complicated the rushed appropriations process over the weekend.

Lawmakers craft a budget based on tax revenue projections that a team of state economists compile. Before Friday, the last revenue projection – given in November – provided lawmakers a starting point to begin the budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins July 1.

That projection showed that lawmakers would have $5.7 billion to use for next year’s budget, which begins July 1. It reflected 1.8 percent revenue growth for next year.

But on Friday, the bottom line number was revised down to $5.6 billion. The new projection reflected no revenue growth for next fiscal year.

In setting the $6 billion FY 2018 budget, the Legislature used some special funds outside of general fund revenue.

Additionally, Gov. Phil Bryant on Friday ordered the fourth mid-year budget cut this fiscal year, which ends June 30, to offset lagging revenue collections.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves Credit: Larrison Campbell, Mississippi Today

“It’s going to be a very challenging budget this year for virtually every state agency,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said on Friday. “I don’t think that should come as any surprise to anyone. That’s been certainly conveyed to many folks the past three or four months. But it’s going to be even more challenging.”

Legislative leaders will work Monday in conference committee meetings to finalize the details of the 26 recommitted appropriations bills, and the votes will be held on chamber floors on all of those, as well as revenue bills and local and private bills.

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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.

One reply on “Legislature starts slicing FY 2018 budgets”

  1. Tate Reeves started pushing tax giveaways as a path to greater state revenues in 2012. It’s 2017 and state revenue is still on a steady downward slope with little prospect in sight for an improvement. Starting in 2018, an additional 415 million will be siphoned out of state coffers.

    It would be wise to delay the 2018 giveaways, but we all know Reeves puts ideology above the state, so expect things to get much, much, worse.

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