/Fitch wants constitutional amendment to balance state budget

Fitch wants constitutional amendment to balance state budget

Fitch spoke at the Neshoba Country Fair and raised concerns about the budget for the current fiscal year, which many state officials – both Republican as Democrat – have publicly criticized. Fitch, who was Treasurer from 2012 to 2012, stated that she would spearhead the ballot initiative. Fitch stated that “we are one of the few states that doesn’t have Constitutional requirement for a balanced budget.” We need to change this. It is important to state that we want, deserve and need a Constitutional requirement for balancing our budget. She continued: “We must urge the Legislature to adopt strong laws to balance out our budget.” It’s vital for the long-term health of our state. There are many laws in Mississippi Code that mandate a balanced budget. However, the language is unclear. The Mississippi Code does not explicitly require that the budget must be balanced. The governor has the responsibility of making sure that revenues do not exceed expenditures during a fiscal year. The Legislature is responsible for passing a balanced budget. Fitch’s proposal, however, would include a Constitutional Amendment. This is considered more concrete than state law. In recent weeks, state politicians from both sides have had to deal with the state budget. Gov. Phil Bryant called a special session to request that the Legislature allow him to draw additional reserves to balance the budget. Bryant had previously cut state budgets across all levels twice in the last fiscal year and pulled more that $105 million from reserves to offset lower revenues. The current fiscal year began July 1st and lawmakers incorrectly estimated that $56 million was needed to cover the overestimation. Recent weeks have seen Attorney General Jim Hood (a Democrat) state that at least $79million in special funds, which Republican lawmakers included as part of the 2017 general fund estimation, can’t legally be pulled into this fund. Fitch stated Thursday that the debt was $130 million. We don’t know what we are balancing it to right now because we don’t have any specific Constitutional requirements or laws. There are two options for amending the Mississippi Constitution. Two-thirds must approve the amendment in order to amend the Constitution. The second option allows for a ballot initiative. This is difficult in Mississippi. Ballot initiative organizers need 21,443 certified signatures from each congressional district as it existed in 2000. The total number of signatures required must reach 107,216, equally distributed across the five congressional districts. Fitch stated that she doesn’t have a date set for getting the ballot on the ballot but that she has been researching the right channels through the Secretary-of-State’s office. Bryant, who had defended the state budget and legislative leadership at the fair’s conclusion on Thursday, was not surprised by Fitch’s announcement. Bryant stated, “What I would like to do is allow people to vote on it.” Bryant said, “I have heard from some who don’t believe it’s necessary, but i don’t see any problem letting people decide.” To support this important work, you can make a recurring contribution today to celebrate our Spring Member Drive. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think. Republish this Story