/House action expected Wednesday on state budget

House action expected Wednesday on state budget

Mississippi House will vote Wednesday on a bill to allow Gov. Phil Bryant will pull additional reserves funds to balance the budget for this year, which expires at midnight on Thursday. The Senate passed the bill 33-14 on Tuesday. However, the House of Representatives hung up due to procedural issues. The bill amends an existing law that limits the governor’s ability to transfer more than $50 million each fiscal year from the state’s rainy day fund. The Senate floor was unable to answer questions about Bryant’s exact needs. This is because the tax revenue continues to roll in until the end of the month. Vice-chair of Senate Appropriations Committee Senator Briggs Hopson (R-Vicksburg), said Tuesday that the amount needed from the fund could range between $10 million to $100 million. Hopson stated that the budget will be short by a few million dollars. “If we fail to pass something, all our state agencies and departments will be shut down.” After a brief meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill. To suspend the House rules and allow for the bill to be considered immediately, however, it needed a two-thirds vote. After that vote was defeated, Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), the House Speaker, accepted a motion for the House to adjourn until Wednesday at 9 a.m., when it will take up the bill. A procedural problem occurred in the Senate as Sen. Hob Bryan (D-Amory) refused to consent to sending the bill to the House immediately. In order to immediately release bills for consideration by the House, it is usually necessary that all senators consent. Bryan objected to Bryan’s motion, the Lt. Governor. Tate Reeves, Senate leaders and others gathered to discuss other avenues to quickly move the bill to the House. After a brief delay, the Senate returned to session and the motion to immediately send the bill to the House was withdrawn. Instead, the Senate voted for adjournment, which ended the session and allowed the bill to be sent to the House immediately. Bryant called the Legislature into special session to request that the $50 million cap be removed. The governor had already taken $45.2million from the fund this fiscal year. Estimates show that $100 million more is needed to balance the budget. On Tuesday, both senators from the chamber and the Appropriations Committee met to inquire about the state’s current financial condition. They also debated whether Bryant should be able to take unlimited amounts out of the state’s rainy-day fund, which currently has $364 million. Due to the lower than expected revenue this year, Mississippi is having difficulty balancing its budget. Bryant has already cut budgets for many state agencies twice this fiscal year in an effort to offset shortfalls in revenue. For $45.2 million, he also dipped twice into the Rainy Day Fund. If the Legislature lifts the $50 million limit per fiscal year, he will have less than $5million available from the Rainy Day Fund. On the final passage of the bill Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who voted against it, asked his fellow senators to think about the big-picture implications and today’s vote. “The real question is, how did we hurt ourselves?” McDaniel stated, “What would we do without the Rainy Day Fund?” It’s not that money isn’t available. We don’t have the priorities… I believe we are on the wrong track. Hopson was pressed by several Democratic senators Tuesday morning to ask Hopson about the state’s budget and what amount the governor might have to withdraw from the Rainy Day Fund. Bryan suggested that someone from the governor’s office visit the Capitol to explain the steps taken by the governor to avoid drawing from the Rainy Day Fund again this year, and why so little notice was given lawmakers about the special session. Bryan stated, “It struck me that we were at session in April and there was no discussion about this.” “What happened between April, when we returned home, and June, when we passed the largest tax cut in the state? Hopson asked senators to reject an amendment by Sen. John Horhn (D-Hinds County), to limit the governor’s access at $100 million. Hopson cited the governor’s ability call the Legislature back to session if he required more. The amendment was defeated by voice vote. The House Appropriations Committee will file the bill. If approved, the bill will then move to the House floor for a final voting. It will then be filed through the House Appropriations Committee, and if approved there, it will be moved to the House floor for a final vote. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today. 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 all Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think.