Phil Bryant orders $43 million in budget cuts, including school funding

February 24, 2017 in News

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has ordered $43 million in cuts from the state budget, marking the fifth time in the past 14 months he has enacted such cuts. AP file photo

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has ordered $43 million in cuts from the state budget, marking the fifth time in the past 14 months he has enacted such cuts.
AP file photo

JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is making the third round of spending cuts since the budget year started in July, and the fifth round in the past 14 months.

Bryant, a Republican, announced $43 million in cuts Tuesday, saying tax collections remain short of expectations. It is just under a 1 percent reduction for most agencies.

Bryant also said he is moving $7 million out of the state’s rainy day fund. Without that, cuts would be larger.

He cited state economist Darrin Webb’s report to lawmakers last week that Mississippi has “struggled to gain momentum” since 2000, and that Mississippi’s economy continues to lag behind that of the nation and the region.

 “Additionally, the state economist does not foresee an uptick in revenue for the remainder of the fiscal year,” Bryant wrote Tuesday in a letter to the state fiscal officer, Laura Jackson.

The budget started at $6.4 billion, and Bryant had to cut $57 million in September because of an accounting error made when legislators were writing the spending plan last spring. He cut $51 million in January, and pulled just over $4 million from the rainy day fund. The latest action brings the total to $151 million in cuts during the first eight months of the fiscal year.

Student financial aid and schools for the blind and deaf are exempt from the new cuts. Also exempt are the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Child Protective Services and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Some programs were exempt from cuts in January, including the school funding formula; courts and prosecutors; and parts of the Department of Public Safety. Bryant said those are being cut one-half of 1 percent in the new round.

“It is tempting to leave things along and hope for revenue collections to improve and offset the shortfall we are experiencing; however, I feel it is imperative that we take action based on the best possible information available,” Bryant wrote. “If we postpone spending reductions until later, then state agencies must make relatively larger cuts and will have less flexibility/time to handle the necessary cuts.”

State law requires a balanced budget. Some programs, including the Division of Medicaid, had already requested millions more dollars to pay for their expenses through June 30. Lawmakers have not made final decisions about those requests.