Gov. Bryant’s budget calls for free community college, cuts to agencies

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Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, foreground, looks into the House chamber gallery after delivering his State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, before a joint session of lawmakers and other elected officials in the House chambers at the Capitol in Jackson.

Gov. Phil Bryant, in his 2019 budget recommendation released Wednesday, called for free community college for students entering high-wage industries and more funding for job creation efforts.

Conversely, in Bryant’s $6 billion budget plan seven state agencies would receive a total of $13 million in cuts, while just four would receive a total of $1.3 million in year-over-year increases.

The Republican governor proposed $7 million for community college for students entering industries with skills-heavy, entry-level jobs that don’t require a four-year degree and pay between $35,000 and $40,000 annually.

“The Mississippi Works Scholars Program proposes to incentivize high school seniors and adults already in the workplace by offering free community college degrees, certificates and apprenticeships necessary to gain employment in these opportunity occupations,” Bryant wrote in the recommendation.

However, the governor proposed budget cuts for the Mississippi Development Authority, which promotes the state’s business climate to attract new jobs, and Innovate Mississippi, which encourages entrepreneurs to invest time and capital in the state.

Overall, Bryant’s proposed budget is $32 million, or 0.5 percent, less than the current fiscal year’s budget, which ends in June 2018.

The governor is required to release a budget recommendation each November ahead of the annual legislative session, when lawmakers pass the next fiscal year’s budget. Rarely is the governor’s recommendation followed by legislative leadership, which develops its own budget recommendations and combs through each line item during the session.

The governor recommended the state continue to store away emergency money in the rainy day fund, as well as creating a separate fund for BP oil spill settlement money to fund a future economic development project on the Gulf Coast.

Notable proposed cuts:

• Department of Education, General Education Programs: $10 million cut, or 6 percent

• Mississippi Public Broadcasting: $1.2 million cut, or 25 percent

• Division of Medicaid: $1.1 million cut, or 0.1 percent

• Mississippi Arts Commission: $239,000 cut, or 15 percent

Notable proposed increases or one-time appropriations:

• Community Colleges, Mississippi Works Scholarship Program: $7 million pilot funding

• Department of Finance and Administration, building repair and renovation: $5.6 million one-time appropriation

• Department of Education, Chickasaw Interest: $962,000 increase, or 5 percent

• Ethics Commission: $94,000 increase, or 16 percent