The House and Senate met for a shaky conference weekend Saturday night. As the final week of this legislative session begins, lawmakers are straining to craft a budget that balances declining state tax revenues with crumbling roads/bridges, a Medicaid system with ballooning costs, and uncertainty in the education funding arena.
House and Senate leadership traded blows with regards to state infrastructure. This has delayed bond bills as of Sunday morning. These funds would have funded local upkeep of roads and bridges. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves spoke Saturday night about internet sales tax collections that are creating a chasm between his views from those of House Speaker Phillip Gunn: “The internet sales tax legislation that they pushed created fake money, in my opinion, and I simply wasn’t willing to do that. And evidently internet sales tax was so important that they were willing to risk the bond bill.” Speaker Phillip Gunn said in a release: “We have been working tirelessly to find a solution to help start addressing the needs of our roads and bridges. The bottom line is that the House has prioritized this issue time and time again. We have not been provided with any solid policy reasons for not moving forward on our bill for funding IHL, community colleges and a roads and bridges solution
Lawmakers face these decisions after Governor Phill Bryant announced the latest budget cut: $20 million, and another dip into the state’s Rainy Day Fund: around $39 million.
House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden called the budget outlook “mighty ugly,” especially as public school funding hangs in limbo, and tax cuts are forecast to subtract some $350 million from the budget next year.
Legislators will scramble this week as they work to hash out a budget, and Governor Bryant has said he’ll call a special session on education funding when/if lawmakers can reach an agreement on an appropriate formula.