In November 2017, the official budget recommendation was made for the 2019 fiscal year, and now it faces a review during the legislative session which began this week.
The estimate for the 2019 fiscal year comes out to be $5,998,036,289, a $76.1 million shortfall from the 2018 fiscal year budget, which is a 1.3% decrease. This figure includes General Funds, Education Enhancement Funds, Health Care Expendable Funds, Tobacco Control Funds and Working Cash-Stabilization Reserved Funds.
Governor Bryant says that fiscal responsibility may come at the cost of having to pick and choose which programs receive more funding than others.
“A fiscally responsible government is fundamental to a successful state,” Gov. Bryant explained. “But fiscal responsibility is not easy. Often, it requires policymakers to say no. It requires us to resist the temptation of funding programs that should be financed exclusively through the private sector or at another level of government. It requires setting reasonable expectations. And it requires us to first consider the needs of citizens, not the wants of government or special interests. The 2017 legislative session was one of the most fiscally responsible in recent memory. Total state support appropriations were reduced nearly 7 percent.”
Heading into the session, Mississippi’s unemployment rate is at its all-time low, an achievement that Governor Bryant says has been brought on by President Trump and a renewed sense of capitalism across the country.
“We have a partner in the federal government that understands a nation and its people can flourish only when government gets out of the way, and intends to take precisely the money it needs to fund core functions, not a penny more,” Gov. Bryant said. “Cooperative federalism is now the norm among our nation’s leadership. President Trump’s administration has loosened the regulatory reins on our economy, injected badly needed confidence and optimism and given businesses the tools they need to grow and excel.”
A potential rewrite of MAEP will be a heavily debated topic in the coming months, and the Governor says that education is trending upward in Mississippi, and they must continue to spend money wisely moving forward.
“More of our third graders are reading at grade level than ever before. Our high school graduation rate has never been higher,” Gov. Bryant said. “We have reached these milestones only by working together to apply good policy to every corner of government. Nowhere is that more important than the process of crafting our budget. We must remain disciplined, careful and thoughtful when we decide how to spend money that does not belong to us, but to taxpayers, who worked so hard to earn it.”
In the budget proposal, Medicaid would receive just under $920 million dollars. Governor Bryant says that the state cannot afford the continue to fund the program with the high costs and that a new solution must be found.
“Mississippi cannot afford a medical assistance program that costs taxpayers over $1 billion a year, particularly one that fails to produce positive outcomes. While Congress and President Trump are pursuing reforms at the federal level, state leaders must continue to strive for better health policies that prioritize taxpayers and beneficiaries over special interests,” Gov. Bryant said.
The budget calls for $223 million to be spent on mental health services across the state. Bryant hopes that this funding can improve on the care in communities in Mississippi.
“This budget calls for the Department of Mental Health to shift $10 million from its institutional budgets to the service budget to expand evidence-based, best-practice services in the community to reduce reliance on institutional care,” Gov. Bryant said.
Child Protective Services
Two years after its inception, Child Protective Services continues to work to protect children across the state and with this budget would operate on a budget of just under $98 million.
“The Legislature stepped up and met that challenge. Now, thanks to the hard work of former Commissioner of Child Protection Services Dr. David Chandler and his team, we are out from under a federal court monitor for the first time in nearly a decade. More foster children are being served than ever before, proving that fewer of our most vulnerable are falling through the cracks,” Gov. Bryant said. “We owe Mississippi’s foster children our very best. They deserve nothing less.”
While Governor Bryant remains positive about the direction of the state, he does point out that not every program can receive the funding that they are hoping for.
“That does not mean it will be easy. As always, some challenges can only be met with solutions that are not popular. Tough decisions are a fact of life in governing, not an inconvenience to be ignored. There has never been enough money to go around to satisfy all the demands put on it. This year will be no different.” Governor Bryant said.
The budget also includes sections for other key areas of concern across the state including, infrastructure, public safety, and healthcare. The budget will be heavily debated and then voted on during the 2018 legislative session.