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Democratic Lawmakers Warn About State Budget Projections

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 22 Mar 2013 03:02pm | comments

Time is running out for Mississippi lawmakers to draft a state budget. But, as MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports, Democrats in the capitol are claiming the current budget proposals are too limited and could harm the state.

The budgets for most state agencies for the next fiscal year are projected at or slightly below the current fiscal year.

Todd Ivy with the Mississippi Department of Education says that means the Mississippi Adequate Education Program would be 292-million dollars underfunded.

Ivy also points out that money to help offset school district property tax rates is missing from the budget proposal and could lead to increases on the local level.

"So that would have an effect of the school district would receive the same amount of funds that they would receive for ad velorum, but since the state is subsidizing a part of that, than the local tax payer gets a tax break," Ivy said.

The Department of Mental Health is one of the departments in line for a budget cut of about 6-million dollars.

Glynn Kegley says the department has taken 45-million dollars in cuts over the last five years, which has made it extremely difficult to hire qualified staff.

"There are all kinds of controls on what we can pay people. And it has basically resulted in it almost being impossible to hire a psychiatrist. They simply will not work for what we can pay them under the state system," Kegley said.

Democratic lawmakers are planning a hearing today that they claim will show that the state has enough money available to dramatically increase spending on things like education and mental health.

Former house appropriations chairman Johnny Stringer of Montrose says budgeting is a question of priorities.

"With the cut, not a cut, but not the increase that we should have gotten. The experts tell us the money is there. We could have funded education, mental health, and Olivia Y and other critical functions of state government," Stringer said.

The Republicans who run the House and Senate appropriations committees reject those claims, saying additional spending would put the state in a deep hole.

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