Budget projections present lawmakers with massive challenge

Yesterday, State Economist Darrin Webb informed lawmakers that he expects the state of Mississippi to suffer from a $1.2 billion decrease in tax revenue by mid-2021, in comparison to what was projected prior to the pandemic.

“What Darrin Webb said is obviously a projection, but nevertheless, it’s the best information we have,” Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said. “We have to operate within that information and make sure we don’t overspend.”

The shortfalls—$864 million less in fiscal year 2020 and $367 million less in fiscal year 2021—predicted by Webb could drastically impact how legislators craft the state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We are entering the last month of the fiscal year, and the revenues are going to be down for that,” Gunn explained. “So, we’ve got the double task of trying to adjust for declining revenues for FY20 and close it out and, then, turn our attention to the task of crafting the budget for FY21.”

While Gunn expects the legislature to have the budget for fiscal year 2021 prepared within the next two to three weeks, he foresees a major cut in it.

“Revenues are going to be less, and therefore, budgets are going to have to be cut,” Gunn said.

Gunn also noted that there is a chance that the 2020 session will be extended indefinitely in order to hash out the Great Recession-esque budget situation, as well as the appropriation of the remaining $900 million in federal funding.

“By extending the session in 30-day increments, you can certainly address anything that may arise, so we are contemplating whether or not we need to do that,” Gunn said. “As this thing unfolds, we want to be flexible. We want to be responsive to anything that may arise, and by considering this, it leaves the legislature able to do its job.”

Thus far, only 54 of the allotted 125 days in session have been used.