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2011 Miss. budget won't have $700 mil in stimulus

JACKSON — Mississippi budget analysts have told lawmakers that the Legislature used $700 million in nonrecurring funds to plug recurring costs in the current budget. Those funds – mostly federal stimulus dollars – will go away this year.

The 14-member Legislative Budget Committee gathered Monday to start developing a proposal for the 2011 session.

During the opening meeting, staff members also told the budget leaders that nearly $572 million will be needed to cover shortfalls in programs whose funding level is dictated by state law. Among them are the Adequate Education Program, which provides the state funding to local school districts; the Mid-Level funding formula for the community college; and funds needed to make the state retirement system whole.

Legislative Budget Office Deputy Director Debbie Rubisoff and others outlined some potential sources to address the shortage.

Suggestions included pulling funds from the state’s Health Care Trust Fund, which currently holds about $102.5 million and possibly taking from the Working Cash Stabilization Reserve, which totals about $176 million.

Budget staff, however, cautioned lawmakers to hold on to some reserves to make up for shortages projected through fiscal 2015.

“I think what we were trying to show is that it makes sense to leave some money,” said LBO director Lee Lindell.

The budget committee and Gov. Haley Barbour were expected to set a revenue estimate Tuesday for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1. The estimate represents the amount of money available to appropriate during the 2011 session.

“We’ve learned even more about our fiscal situation, so maybe we’ll be a bit more prepared,” House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said. “We’ll get through it.”

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