JACKSON — Mississippi tax collections are running $91 million ahead of expectations just over halfway into the fiscal year, a top budget writer said Tuesday.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, said that’s a small portion of the $6 billion budget, but the uptick shows economic conditions are improving. He also said legislators will consider a long list of funding requests from state agencies the next couple of months.
Some programs, including Medicaid, are seeking more money to get through the year that ends June 30. Others want increases for the year that begins July 1.
From January to December 2014, enrollment increased by 10 percent in Mississippi Medicaid and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid director David Dzielak (JELL-ick) told House Appropriations Committee members Tuesday. Both programs are funded with state and federal money. Combined enrollment for the two programs went from 714,338 to 786,861 during the year.
The increase was driven partly by people learning that they were already eligible for Medicaid and signing up for coverage, and partly by a change in the way family income is counted to determine who can enroll, Dzielak said. Under the federal health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law, Medicaid is told to disregard a portion of family income, which then makes people who earn slightly more money eligible for Medicaid coverage, Dzielak said.
Medicaid has already received $885.4 million for the current budget year, fiscal 2015, and is requesting an additional $99.5 million before the year ends June 30, he said.
When Dzielak appeared before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee in October, he said Medicaid was requesting just over $1 billion for fiscal 2016, which begins July 1. On Tuesday, he said that request is now $989.8 million because the federal government is paying a higher than expected share of expenses for Medicaid in Mississippi. Because Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation, it receives one of the highest percentages of federal money for its Medicaid program.
During a separate presentation Tuesday, the head of the state community college system, Eric Clark, asked budget writers for additional money for the two-year schools.
“There’s more money in the bank than there’s been for 10 years,” Clark said. “Give us some of it. We really are the best bang for the buck.”
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