Total budget reduction $175 million
The state’s fiscal crisis continued to dominate discussions at the Capitol last week.
On Friday, another $20 million in cuts to the current budget were announced. This brings the total budget reduction to about $175 million for the year. There does not appear to be much hope for an improved economic outlook as the recommendation from the Legislative Budget Office was to plan for the coming year at a level consistent with the FY2017 final figures. This indicates that there may be zero growth in the state’s economy next year.
Many of us continue to believe there is a need to revisit the planned corporate tax giveaway that will be coming in its first installment next year. We have attempted to pass a resolution requiring that the corporate tax giveaways be held back until a brighter economic picture emerges for the state.
Whenever budget cuts occur, those who suffer are more than just line items. Some of Mississippi’s most vulnerable citizens are no longer able to access services that may mean their very lives. It is no secret that Mississippi, like many other states, is in the throes of a major opioid addiction epidemic. Both young and old people are being lost, and families are grieving. That’s only one reason why so many of us are urging the restoration of funding to services provided by the State Department of Mental Health.
Last week, as Attorney General Jim Hood delivered $34.4 million gained by the state through litigation, he requested that a portion of that money be devoted to mental health programs that have been discontinued or severely impacted by the budget.
We moved through the annual “Conference Weekend” during which time conference committees meet to iron out differences between House and Senate versions of various measures, and a number of deadlines are met. Importantly, this is also how and when the final budget numbers are determined.
The Senate sent several bills to the governor last week. Among those was Senate Bill 2724 which would require all vehicle passengers to wear seat belts. Known as “Harlie’s Law,” which is named for Harlie Ann Brooke Oswalt, a Marshall County teenager who died as a result of a one-car accident in which she was an unrestrained back seat passenger.
Senate Bill 2689 restricts political campaign expense spending and prohibits personal use of campaign funds. The Ethics Commission will oversee enforcement of the measure.
The session is scheduled to end on April 2, although tentative plans are for the Senate to finish up on Friday, March 31. All Senate Floor sessions are streamed live online on the legislative website: www.legislature.ms.gov. Simply click on “Live Webcast” to watch us in action during floor debate. The site also offers access to review the daily actions of the chambers under Legislation/Daily Action Reports and Senate and House Schedules to see when we convene and have committee meetings. I can be reached at the Capitol while in session at (601) 359-3221, by cell phone at (662) 224-4126, or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Senate mailing address is P.O. Box 1018, Jackson, MS 39215.