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Agencies back lump sum cuts

JACKSON — Directors of the largest agencies in state government have asked the Legislature for lump sum budget authority and the flexibility to better manage personnel needs in order to limit potential job cuts by removing “the bureaucratic constraints of the State Personnel Board,” according to the Governor’s Office .

In a letter to Senate and House appropriations chairmen, agency leaders say lifting restrictions imposed by state service statutes would allow them to more effectively achieve the savings necessary as the state faces substantial budget shortfalls this year and in fiscal year 2011.

Agency directors joining in the request include the Departments of Mental Health, Rehabilitation Services, Transportation, Public Safety, Finance and Administration, Human Services, Environmental Quality and Corrections. Other agencies represented on the letter include the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, Division of Medicaid, and the Mississippi Development Authority. Governor Barbour, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, House Speaker Billy McCoy and legislators also were sent copies of the letter.

“Achieving the necessary savings to balance the FY 2010 budget will not be an easy task for any state agency, but it can be done effectively and in a manner that minimizes personnel cuts as much as possible,” the letter says. “Toward this end, it is imperative that state agency directors be given the proper management tools that allow us that flexibility, including lump sum budgeting and freedom from State Personnel Board regulations.  Failure to grant this flexibility will necessarily result in larger personnel cuts.”

Gov. Haley Barbour’s executive budget recommendation, delivered to the Legislature in Nov. 2009, called for the action. Removing Personnel Board restrictions is the most effective way to balance staffing and service demands with the reality of falling tax revenues, the letter states. Granting agency directors lump sum budget authority will allow them to move appropriations from one spending category to another as needed, reducing the need for layoffs.

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