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Legislators Consider Budget Reform

By Daniel Cherry | Published 23 Feb 2012 07:20pm | comments

Mississippi legislators are considering options for reforming how the state spends tax dollars. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how lawmakers are looking into Governor Bryant's suggestion to move to performance based funding for state agencies.

Governor Phil Bryant has pushed the Smart Budget Act as a way to bring more accountability to the way lawmakers distribute tax dollars. Texas has used a performance based budget model since the early 90's and yesterday Mike Morrisey, a top advisor to Texas Governor Rick Perry explained how the system increased transparency in their state.

"The biggest challenge anybody has trying to write a budget is to adequately explain what the money is going to be used for and to set the expectations for by which it will be spent. And so we tried to put in place a system that said, here are the expectations."

Both the House and Senate appropriations committees heard from Morrisey as they consider budget reform. Herb Friarson, House Appropriations Chairman says the legislature passed a bill setting the framework for performance budgeting in 94, but never followed through enforcing it.

"What we did back in the early 90s was throw something together and called it this and never looked back at it. It wasn't the breadth and scope of research and attention to detail put into it that you're going to have to put into it to make this work."

The idea is, the legislature sets goals for state agencies. If met, they're rewarded. If not, they could lose future funding. Terry Burton, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee welcomes new standards for holding agencies accountable.

"I have no concerns about performance budgeting. The concern I have is making sure that we take seriously the measures that we ask the agencies to do, the benchmarks that we ask them to meet, and the outcomes that we expect from the agencies. I think we need to take them more seriously than we do."

Legislators say the process is so large and so complicated, it could be 5 years or more before performance based budgeting is fully implemented, that's if it passes this session.

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