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Shock and Awe over Latest Legislative Budget Ideas and Spending Priorities

JACKSON, Miss. – Eliminating more than 2,000 empty state jobs, reducing travel and services by contacts; plus limiting the purchase of new equipment are among ways Mississippi’s top lawmakers plan to save tax dollars during the new fiscal year.

“We have worked very hard to be responsible with tax dollars,” said House Speaker Philip Gunn, Tuesday after presenting  the Joint Legislative Budget Committee’s $6 billion 2016 spending blue print.  “We are living within our means; we are not spending more tax dollars then we have; and we have eliminated our dependence on one-time money.”

The proposal is $112.2 million less than the current budget.  While it has in it money for the second year of a teacher pay raise, it would fall about $280 million short of funds that should, by law, go to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

State Senator Hob Bryan (D, Amory) called the budget recommendation shocking. “They are underfunding public schools by more than a quarter of a billion dollars and letting the state highway system deteriorate.  And instead of managing those things, they are putting money in the bank and claiming somehow that’s good management – to build up these huge amounts of money in the bank while leaving children uneducated and while leaving roads crumbing.  That’s just not good management.”

Bryan said House and Senate democrats will continue to look at the Committee’s recommendation and will have their own response by Thursday.

The quick disagreements over a spending plan is just the beginning of the yearly tugging over the purse strings and is no surprise.  Gunn noted several times that the Committee’s plan is just a working blueprint and could be changed once it’s debated by the full Legislature.  Lawmakers return for a new session in January and must agree on a spending bill by early April for the next fiscal that starts July 1.

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