The 2023 legislative session is quickly coming to an end, with sine die anticipated to be called in less than two weeks.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Briggs Hopson stated that at this time, the majority of appropriation bills are not expected to be approved until the final days of the session.
“As it relates to appropriations, every agency has a budget and there are approximately 110 budgets that we deal with. You have some general bills, too, that are appropriations bills,” Hopson said.
Hopson explained that although there are some pieces of legislation that were approved earlier in the session that require special funding, the majority of spending bills are still on the table.
“We try sometimes to get special funds out of the way early but, frankly, when you’re not sure about some of the expenses, whether they’re going to be operational considerations or whether they’re going to be salary considerations,” Hopson stated. “You kind of have to hold everything to the end until you got a real good feel about what your revenue estimate is going to be. You also know what spending level you want to be at in some of the key projects. So, that’s where we are right now.”
According to Hopson, both chambers are holding out until final appropriations deadlines to ensure that none of the funds from the budgets are spent on legislation that is a lower priority than others.
“What we do and what the chambers pass up here, if you end up passing those bills, you’re going to bill in money to the budget,” Hopson said. “Some of the things that pass the first round when you get down to setting your budget, they don’t make it across the finish line because there just aren’t enough dollars or there’s just not enough joint momentum between the two chambers as to whether or not that should go forward.”
Hopson added that although Mississippi’s revenue is estimated to be about $520 million over budget for the 2023 fiscal year, lawmakers are keeping the current state of the economy in mind while designating where the funds will be spent.
“You also need to be cognizant of what’s happening in the overall economy as you start looking at what’s going to happen for us in scheduling for 2024,” Hopson said. “What’s the state going to look like, what’s the nation going to look like economically because you want to make sure you got a smart spending picture for our state.”
Several highly-debated bills that would require a large amount of state funding, including the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), are still being discussed in both chambers.
House Bill 1369, which would allocate roughly $181 million to MAEP, has been passed in the Senate and waiting to be approved by the House. Legislators such as Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White and Governor Tate Reeves have spoken about the bill throughout the session, with Reeves urging lawmakers to approve another teacher pay raise instead.
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