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House and Senate Budget Writers React To ‘Performance-Based Budgeting’

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 25 Jan 2012 04:26pm | comments
Senator Buck Clark talks budget at a breakfast meeting.

Mississippi lawmakers have about three months left to craft a balanced budget for the Fiscal year that begins July First. But, as MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports, this year's budget process could be the last before a total overhaul of how the state spends its money.

"I ask to put the smart budget act on my desk this session,"

That's Governor Phil Bryant at Tuesday's state of the state address pushing for what he calls a performance based, or smart, budget act that would allocate money to state agencies based on pre-set goals and results.

At a Wednesday breakfast speech in Jackson, House appropriations chairman Herb Frierson of Poplarville says a performance based budget could make the process easier for law makers and state agencies.

"The agencies are going to have measurable goals. And when they come back asking for more money or the same amount of money we are going to have a reference point to say, 'you did good, you met your goals. Or, you didn't meet your goals, what is the problem?'. And it takes a little bit of the political gamesmanship out of the process," Frierson said.

The changes wouldn't happen overnight, even if the bill is passed this year. Senate appropriations chairman Buck Clark of Hollandale says it could take years to develop measurable goals for all state agencies.

"True performance based budgeting is a long term process to develop because you have got to develop criteria within every agency as to how you are going to measure their performance," Clark said.

Performance based budgeting is sometimes compared to how a business drafts its budget.

Mike Thomas works for a coal company in Ackerman and he attended the breakfast speech.

Thomas says how the state spends its money greatly affects his business and thinks law makers could learn from businessmen.

"We do a zero-based budget and I think that is what we ought to do and I certainly think it ought to be performance based," Thomas said.

Some democrats have expressed skepticism of performance based budgeting saying they need more time to look at the details before  deciding if it will help or hurt Mississippi.

A performance budget act has passed the state senate in previous legislative sessions but met opposition in the State House.

A new republican majority could change that this session, and bring Governor Bryant a political victory on one of his biggest policy goals.



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