/State budget to be finished next week, legislators hope

State budget to be finished next week, legislators hope

Philip Gunn, House Speaker, stated that the goal was to complete the task by Tuesday and close the 2022 legislative session. The budgeting process was due to be completed by the legislators early last week. However, twice the legislature had to extend the session in order to complete it. Briggs Hopson (R-Vicksburg), Senate Appropriations Chair, stated that “we have a few details to attend to” in order to reach a final budget agreement. It is expected that the budget will be $300 million higher than the $6.56 trillion overall state support budget approved during the 2021 session. This includes the $246 million already allocated for a pay increase of $5,145 per teacher and a 3% increase for Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and troopers of state Highway Patrol. To provide salary increases for state employees, money will also be available to pay them more in line with regional averages. Hopson stated that the final budget agreement will likely include additional funding for school building and early childhood education. However, it is unclear if the budget will include extra money for Mississippi Adequate Education Program. This program provides basic funding to local school districts. In the early budget projections, MAEP was about 10% short of full funding. Negotiators indicated that they were likely to spend $1.5 billion of $1.8 billion in federal COVID-19 funds during this session. Most of the funds will go to local governments for their water and sewer infrastructure needs. These funds will also be used by Josh Harkins (R-Flowood), Senate Finance Chair. Harkins said that the state can save $30 million this fiscal year by not passing a bond law. In order to finance construction projects, the Legislature frequently incurs debt. The state’s unprecedented revenue collection has resulted in more than $1 billion in surplus funds. Instead, the projects will now be funded with the excess funds of over $1 billion. These funds will be used to construct state buildings, community colleges, and road and bridge repairs. These funds could also be used to fund local construction projects that have been approved by the Legislature.