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Gov. Bryant issues call for special legislative session

Phil Bryant

Phil Bryant

By BOBBY HARRISON / Daily Journal

Gov. Phil Bryant is hoping legislators quickly resolve the budget issues the state is facing in balancing the budget for the current fiscal year in a special session he has called for Tuesday morning.

Bryant announced the special session – to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday – in a news release early Monday morning.

“Disciplined and conservative spending by Republican leadership the last five legislative sessions has left the Rainy Day Fund in the perfect position to fill the small deficit in the FY16 budget,” Bryant said. “I would urge lawmakers to complete their work quickly, to keep taxpayers’ costs as low as possible.”

The special session is needed because the shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, could be as much as $75 million. Because revenue has not come in at a rate to meet projections, Bryant already has made two rounds of cuts totaling $60 million in the $6.25 billion budget supported from general taxation. He also already has transferred $45.2 million from the Working Cash Stabilization Fund, commonly called the rainy day fund.

Bryant has set one item for the legislative agenda – to transfer funds from the rainy day fund to fill the budget shortfall.

The governor waited until the late date in June to call the special session to assess tax revenue collected in June.

While not at its statutory maximum, the rainy day fund contains about $360 million.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves pointed out that in a budget of more than $6 billion, the shortfall is minimal.

“Gov. Bryant, Speaker Gunn and I agree that the best way to address this shortfall is through a transfer from the Working Cash Stabilization Reserve Fund, and I expect this to be quickly resolved in the special session to minimize costs for taxpayers,” Reeves said in the news release.

Philip Gunn, who presides over the House, also said the Legislature could easily resolve the issue by again tapping into the rainy day fund.

The leadership of the Democratic minority has called for a more extensive special session to deal with budget woes that will face the state starting with the July 1 budget. Numerous state agencies already have said they are facing shortfalls that will result in layoffs and a reduction in services.

The Department of Mental Health is ending multiple programs, such as the chemical dependency units for adult males. The Department of Health plans to shut down a program that aimed to reduce the state’s high infant mortality rates.

Democrats contend the multiple tax cuts passed in recent years, primarily for businesses, have led to the slowdown in state revenue collections, resulting in the budget cuts.

“Mississippi legislative Democrats call for a return to fiscal sanity,” Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis, the House minority leader, said earlier this year.

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