JACKSON, MISS– The state house voted Wednesday 72-38 to pass the bill that would allow Governor Phil Bryant to take money from the rainy day fund and use it for budget holes for the 2016 fiscal year. The House debated Senate Bill 2001 Wednesday, which would allow for the Department of Finance Administration to transfer power to Governor Phil Bryant to move money from the state’s “rainy day” fund to the general fund to cover budget shortfalls for the 2016 fiscal year.
Debate in the House Wednesday focused on how the budget holes started, referring to House Bill 799 which allowed for corporate tax cuts in 2014.
“You’ll never write the perfect budget,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson.
Representative Adrienne Wooten responded.
“Yes, but if it were not for corporate tax cuts we wouldn’t be here.” stated Wooten.
Chairman Frierson said that the Governor would only need about $60 million to close budget holes for the 2016 budget, which Wooten further questioned.
“Why then, if we know there’s only $60 million needed, why are we giving the governor an open-booked blank check?” asked Wooten.
Amendments to the bill were offered after heated debate on the house floor. Minority Leader David Baria suggested the amendment that any amount of a $100 million dollar cap not spent by September 1 should be returned to the General Fund.
“We should never give the executive Carte Blanche authority over the people’s money,” said Baria. The amendment was tabled without a vote.
Representative John Hines recommended an amendment that would move $3 million to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
“We shouldn’t just rubber-stamp stuff and run off,” said Rep. Hines. His amendment was also tabled and failed. Any amendment made by the House today would call for the Senate to return within three days to address the bill again.
The debate turned to establishing money for the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Health. All amendments failed.
The special session has ended.
Governor Bryant commented on the session’s end.
“It’s regrettable that the grandstanding of the House Democrats cost taxpayers an additional $30,000,” said Gov. Bryant. “I am grateful to the leadership of the Senate and the House for doing their job and allowing me to do mine — balance the state budget.”
Ouida Meruvia, spokesperson for the Mississippi Democratic Party released the following statement:
“House Democrats took the floor today to debate whether one-time funds taken from the Rainy Day Fund should be given carte blanche’ to the Governor to spend or go to specific areas where the state is now experiencing shortfalls and will experience shortfalls in the future. The Republican leadership whipped their members in line to stop debate on any amendments offered to address the shortfall problems they created.”
“Democrats offered amendments to make sure disaster funds, mental health programs and potential Zika virus funds would be available and that drinking water, sewer systems and restaurants would continue to be inspected. Republicans killed all of those efforts. Republicans own this budget with all the shortfalls, tax breaks to out-of-state corporations and cuts in services to our local communities included. Their party line has been ‘We knew what we were doing; we knew this would happen; and more is coming.’
“Democrats wanted to offer a logical and reasoned approach to continue funding local law enforcement, fire services, autism programs and mental health. They were stopped. Republicans will have to answer for that sooner rather than later.
“Democrats voted against final passage of this Special Session legislation because they did not want to turn a blind eye to the Republican leaderships’ efforts to simply transfer taxpayer dollars to a fund just to make sure the state’s checks to corporations didn’t bounce. Democrats wanted taxpayer money to go to services for which they were raised in the first place.”