/Questions dog 2017 budget

Questions dog 2017 budget

After months of delays, questions and delays from lawmakers and state agency heads, Wednesday saw the release of the state budget for 2017. The Legislature approved it in April. This document details the cuts made to a majority state agencies by lawmakers trying to offset lower-than expected revenue for the current fiscal year. Only a few agencies saw their budgets reduced by 20 percent or more over the previous year. The budget of the Mississippi Developmental Authority was reduced 47.3 percent or $18.6million. The Veterans Affairs Board saw a 25.2 percent reduction, or $1.7 Million. The State Medical Examiner’s Office was reduced 23.7 percent or $216,000. A bill was passed by lawmakers just hours before the budget was approved. It pulls fees and assessments from special funds of some agencies into the general fund. Interagency transfers are also eliminated by the new law. For example, one agency could charge another rent or provide Internet and technology services. Officials claim that the law delayed the completion of next year’s budget. This week’s budget summary was unusually late in the year. The last time the same report was released in the past four years was May 8. Some agency heads are still unsure how the special funds sweeps will impact their budget next year due to delays and unanswered budget questions. Next year’s budget begins July 1. The Legislative Budget Office didn’t break down how special fund affects agencies’ budgets. Instead, it provided a net budget for each agency. These totals might show an increase or decrease in year-over-year; instead, a net budget for each agency was provided. However, special fund sweeps could have a different impact on the money the agencies actually have. According to new budget documents, Capital Post-Conviction Counsel received the second-highest year-over-year increase at 175.2 percent. This is because it provides services for people who have been sentenced to death. Director Louwlynn Vanzetta Williams stated that the new law leaves them uncertain about how much they will have to spend. This department is responsible for retrieving all documents, including birth certificates from Department of Vital Records, information from Department of Corrections, and open-records requests. Williams estimates that about a quarter to a third of agency’s budget goes towards document fees. She is not sure how much of $1.8 million the Legislature allocated to her agency will go toward documents and other fees between agencies. The new law bans agencies from renting to each other and Williams could use the money to fund other projects now that they don’t have to pay the fees they paid last year. Nevertheless, many agency heads have raised questions and made public comments. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves stated last week that it is possible to clarify the law during a legislative session. Reeves stated that some state agencies don’t like the budgeting authority they received this year, and they don’t want less control over spending that money. According to the budget report, there were some legitimate issues and others that have been created. However, certain agencies saw significant increases in their budgets this year. The 261.1 percent or $2.9million increase in funding for the Department of Marine Resources, which is responsible for managing the state’s public trust wetlands, uplands, and waterfront areas, was received last year. The support division of the Department of Finance and Administration received a 158.2 per cent increase, or $25.3million. The Attorney General’s Office saw a 124.6% increase of $15.6 million. Jim Hood, the Attorney General of Texas, has been the most vocal state official regarding next year’s budget. He once called the special fund sweeps illegal. His office will not see any net increases. Hood stated in a statement that $20 million will be lost in federal funding to state agencies. Hood explained that the federal government won’t reimburse agencies under certain grants unless they have receipts for rent or services received from another agency in an arm-length transaction. Other departments and projects, such as the Pearl River Valley water supply area and the roads and bridge program, lost 100% of their funding last year. Other departments, such as the state fire academy or personnel board, that were not funded last fiscal year were also funded this year. According to LBO net totals, the largest cuts were made to Mississippi Developmental Authority (47.3% or $18.6 Million Archives and History) and Mississippi River Parkway Commission, which combined with MDA is 25.2 percent and $1.7M. The 23.7 percent figure represents $216,959 Office of Supreme Court Services. Our reporters give voice to the everyday lives of Mississippians by listening 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.