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Lt. Gov. Reeves: ‘Wish List’ Budget Mentality Must Change

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 10 Sep 2012 05:46pm | comments

The battle lines over the next Mississippi state budget fight are already being drawn. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the state's Lt. Governor is calling on agency heads to look for ways to reduce spending ahead of a series of budget meetings next week.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves says agency heads need to do away with a 'wish list' mentality when they make their budget recommendations for the 2014 fiscal year to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee in Jackson next week.

Reeves spoke to the Jackson Rotary Club yesterday and says the focus should be on controlling the growth of the budget.

"Our state economist has said on several occasions that he doesn't expect state revenues to meet where we were pre-recession until at least two additional fiscal years. So as responsible stewards of the tax payer money we have got to continue to work to hold down spending," Reeves said.

Because of that slow growth in revenue, Reeves is projecting that state agencies will likely see their budgets cut again for the fiscal year that begins July first next year.

The decision whether or not to expand Medicaid eligibility could be a big point of contention for the budget committee.

Reeves opposes expanding the program saying it would be too expensive.

"There are things that have to be done to reform the health care system. The reality is adding in our state, as Obamacare would do, 4-to-5-hundred thousand Mississippians onto the Medicaid rolls we just don't believe that is teh right way to do it," Reeves said.

However, Some state democrats have made the expanding who is eligible for Medicaid a key goal of their party.

Representative George Flaggs of Vicksburg, who is one of three democrats on the committee, says Mississippi law makers should expand the program because the Federal Government would foot most of the bill and pour as much as 10-billion dollars into the state.

"We are learning now that we are not going to be able to put momma out of the nursing home or let her be without her medication. So i think the leadership is looking at it very caution now. I just think within the next two years we will have some Medicaid expansion. Now we may not call it Medicaid expansion but we are going to do something with that 10-billion dollars," Flaggs said.

The joint legislative budget committee will meet all next week to listen to budget projections from agency leaders before drafting a recommended budget that often serves as a blue print for the upcoming legislative session.

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