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Fiscal 2018 budget makes cuts, follows discoveries by working groups

JACKSON, Miss — The Joint Legislative Budget Committee released Thursday a Fiscal 2018 budget that reduces spending by 3 percent and includes efficiencies found by legislative working groups over the past several months.

Out-of-state travel and vehicle purchases would be curbed under the proposed $6.1 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2017. State-support spending would decline by $195.3 million compared to the current year.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said these adjustments plus the budget group meetings led to achieving the goal of saving the state money.

“This recommendation is in line with our continued goal of budgeting within our means,” said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, who serves as chairman of the budget committee. “We continue to be disciplined in our budgeting by staying within the revenues received.”

Gunn said the decisions weren’t easy.

“Therefore, we need to budget based upon real dollars,” he continued. “We have made difficult, but solid, budgetary decisions. We’ve also incorporated ideas generated from the budget working group meetings that occurred during the summer and fall.”

Under the budget, the school funding formula would receive more than $2.2 billion as it did in the current year. Education spending also includes $21 million for the new School Recognition Program, which rewards teachers and staff for boosting student achievement.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves said the top needs of the state were considered before the decisions were made.

“We have proposed a conservative budget that forces agencies to be more mindful of how they spend taxpayer dollars while funding priorities like highway patrol officers, public schools and foster care,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said.

The budget reduces spending for most other agencies, though the newly created Child Protection Agency charged with overseeing the foster care system will not see cuts.

As required by law, the budget spends 98 percent of funds and sets tax dollars aside for the state’s savings accounts. Also, debt service, or payments on bonds, was funded at current levels.

The proposal includes savings found through legislative budget working groups, which met over the past six months. Lawmakers examined spending for the state’s largest agencies, including the departments of Transportation, Health, Mental Health, Human Services, Corrections, Public Safety and Education; the Division of Medicaid, Institutions of Higher Learning, community colleges, boards and commissions, state facilities, and information technology consolidation.

Efficiencies included are:

·         Saving $19 million in state support funds from a yearlong moratorium on state vehicle purchases by agencies.

·         Saving $12 million in state support funds from limiting travel by state workers.

·         Redirect $4.5 million from remediation programs at community colleges and universities to reduce the number of students needing to repeat courses at higher education institutions.

·         Saving $13 million in state support funds from removing state employees from personnel board regulations.

 

The proposed Fiscal 2018 budget will be used by the Appropriations Committees to start crafting a spending plan during the session, which begins in January.

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