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Legislators expect a 3 percent spending increase next year

budget_pieJACKSON — Top Mississippi lawmakers said yesterday they expect a 3 percent increase in state spending during the coming year, reflecting a prediction of modest growth in the state economy.

That’s stronger than the 1.1 percent revenue growth rate for the current year over last year, but weaker than the roughly 5.5 percent growth during each of the two previous years.

The 13-member Joint Legislative Budget Committee met yesterday and set a revenue estimate of about $6 billion, which is an educated guess about how much money the state will have available to spend. The estimate is used as a basis to write a budget for fiscal 2016, which begins July 1.

State economist Darrin Webb told lawmakers that he expects Mississippi’s economy to grow at a slow pace the next six months, then strengthen.

“We expect the state to follow a pattern of gradually improving growth over the next two years, very similar to that of the nation,” Webb said. “But we do expect the state’s growth to be less than that of the nation.”

The current state budget includes about $6 billion of state-generated revenue, plus billions more in federal funding. Most of the state-generated revenue comes from a variety of tax collections that comprise the $5.5 billion general fund; the overall number rises to about $6 billion when other sources of state income, such as lawsuit settlements, are included.

The budget for the coming year will be $166 million larger, with the general fund projected to grow to about $5.6 billion and overall state revenue again topping $6 billion.

In December, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee will release separate spending proposals for fiscal 2016. Those will be considered during the legislative session that begins in early January, and the deadline to adopt a spending plan is early April.

The Budget Committee on Monday approved a $4.3 million increase in the revenue estimate for the current fiscal year — an amount so small that Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said it amounts to a “rounding error” in a budget that tops $6 billion. Still, he said he expects state agencies to line up and request part of that money.

“For the $4.3 million, we’ll probably have a couple billion in asks,” Reeves said.

 

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