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Bryant: 'Budget system is broken'



Phil Bryant

Phil Bryant

JACKSON — To go along with the task of crafting a balanced budget for the next fiscal year with a $700-million shortfall, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant will ask lawmakers to overhaul the state’s entire budgetary system once the 2010 session starts in January.


In a report it presented to Bryant yesterday, the Commission for a New Mississippi recommends that funding for state agencies and their programs be tied to performance.

Bryant said the current system encourages state agency heads to ask for more money year after year, with the state lacking the ability to gauge the effectiveness of different programs whose expenses continue to grow. He cited the hearings the Joint Legislative Budget Committee held in September, in which agency executives asked for a total of $1.4 billion in increases for FY2011.

“Our current budget system is broken,” Bryant said.

The Commission, made up of business leaders and former government officials, began its work last January. In the past, similar reports issued by similar groups have largely been ignored.

“We wanted this to be different,” Bryant said. “We started looking at the core of the problem, and it all came back to the budget. As we go about budgeting taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, we must ask, ‘How is it done?'”

The Commission recommends a three-pronged approach to reforming the state’s system of allocating state money. The first is for the state to develop a long-term strategic plan that establishes benchmarks state agencies have to reach. The second is the reform of performance-based budgeting that would tie agency funding to those benchmarks. The third step is to consolidate the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) Committee and the Legislative Budget Office (LBO) into one agency that would audit state agencies’ progress toward meeting their defined goals.

“We need to stop putting money into programs that are failing,” Bryant said.

If the Legislature adopts the Commission’s proposals, they would not take effect until some time in calendar year 2012, Bryant said. He estimated the measures would achieve cost savings of 5 percent, or about $250 million.

“This is something that is long overdue,” said former House Speaker Pro Tem Robert Clark, who sits on the commission.

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