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Your Tax Dollars and How They Are Spent: Lawmakers to Track Every Dollar in New Program

Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

JACKSON, Miss.–This is about your tax dollars and how they are being spent. It’s a new program called “Building a Better Mississippi”, and the goal, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, is to make sure every dollar is being spent wisely and to cut down on waste.

Essentially it is an effort to amp up performance-based budgeting, which was passed in 1994.

The announcement that state lawmakers who control the money will adopt the new plan was made Thursday at the state Capitol by House Speaker Phillip Gunn (R-Clinton) and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R).

“We can confidently say that Mississippi is on the right track with the responsible and conservative spending approach that Republicans have brought to the Capitol,” said Gunn. “Today we are here to announce we are not done. We are continuing the fight to make sure that every dollar is spent wisely and that the benefit achieved out of every tax dollar is maximized. Republicans are changing the way government thinks about spending from ‘what is government buying’ to ‘what is government accomplishing?”

Indeed the program does seem completely partisan, with all “R”s and no “D”s putting a stamp of approval on the process.

Gunn said the program will operate by giving state agencies their goals, what the money is being given to them for, and then measuring whether or not those goals are accomplished.

“Our state agencies are good about reporting what they have done – how many people they served, how many licenses they issued, how many reports they produced,” he said. “They have not been so good at measuring what results they have achieved, how well they are achieving those results, or how efficient they have been with our money.”

Gunn said that under the program agencies would have some “clear direction” as to what the legislature expects from them, why they exist, what their mission is, what they are expected to accomplish and, again, why they are getting the money.

It’s outlined in a 28-page booklet that includes a mission for each agency.

For example, for K-12 education, the booklet reads:

To make available a quality K-12 public education for all Mississippians that prepares them, upon high school graduation, to either enter the labor force with an employable skill or to successfully complete a higher education program.

It’s then broken down into specific goals for special education, career and technical, student achievement, and so on. The final bullet point is cost. What the bottom line is per student.

Reeves said he does anticipate some resistance to the program.

“The reason for that is the success of the programs they are operating are going to be measured now. We’ve already started the process with the Dept. of Corrections and we’re moving to all state agencies, and also because it’s gonna require more work, which doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s something that has to be done,” said Reeves.

He said they began this plan last year and will start implementing it in September.

Gov. Bryant issued a statement Thursday afternoon signaling his approval.

“I am encouraged that the Legislature announced its intention to move toward a performance-based budget model that ties state spending to results and not who you know at the Capitol, something I have long advocated.

“Last year, the Legislature made progress toward modeling performance-based budgeting with a few state agencies and now, with the plan lawmakers have issued today, seems ready to take another step in the right direction.

“An accountable budget system is in the best interest of taxpayers and in the best interest of the fiscal health of the state. I look forward to working with lawmakers on their proposals.”

You could see results in 2016 or 2017.

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