JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — The Latest on Mississippi budget hearings (all times local):
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is criticizing Mississippi Department of Mental Health leaders for giving pay raises to some employees the past four years even as the department’s director has publicly discussed budget cuts for the current year.
Director Diana Mikula says some of the raises went to direct care workers who moved into higher-level jobs. Their starting pay is about $16,000 a year, and she says there’s a high level of turnover in the jobs.
Reeves says 35 employees in the department have received raises of at least $20,000 each.
Mikula says most of those raises went to psychiatrists or nurse practitioners. She says there’s a shortage of people to fill those jobs.
During budget hearings this week, Mississippi lawmakers are asking agency directors the same set of questions.
How much tax money is directly providing services to people? And how much is being spent on administration?
Some, including Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, are also challenging directors who have spoken publicly about the effects of budget cuts.
Reeves says the Mississippi State Department of Health has received millions more dollars over the past five years.
The state health officer, Dr. Mary Currier, says the department has reduced some services, laid off some employees and increased some fees because of budget cuts for the year that started July 1.
Currier says the department will work within the budget that legislators approve and will be mindful of its main mission of protecting public health.