Gov. Phil Bryant says he does not anticipate having to make any more budget cuts this year to offset sluggish revenue collections.
“I think we are in good shape right now,” the Republican governor said recently. “We are within the revenue number.”
Bryant said any issues dealing with the budget for the current fiscal year can be dealt with by the Legislature during the 2017 session starting in January.
The governor already made a cut of $56.8 million (less than 1 percent of the total state general fund budget) in September. That cut was caused because the Legislature, during the 2016 session, budgeted $56.8 million too much because of what was essentially an accounting error.
But for July and August, the first two months of the fiscal year, revenue collections have not met projections. In addition, while the numbers are not final, Rep. David Baria of Bay St Louis, the House Democratic leader, said via social media it appears revenue also will not meet projections for September.
Despite the revenue woes, Bryant seemed confident Friday he would not have to make any additional cuts this year.
Bryant said in January the Legislature may have to make adjustments to the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act that was passed during the 2016 session. The controversial legislation was supposed to provide additional funds – nearly $190 million – to help offset the budget woes facing the Legislature by sweeping into the state general fund the fees and assessments 16 agencies receive to administer specific programs.
But in an official opinion, Attorney General Jim Hood said because of the way the new law was worded it did not transfer as much money to the general fund budget as legislators intended. He estimated $80 million that legislators were counting on could not be transferred. Bryant said legislators might revisit the issue in January.
The cut Bryant made in early September comes on top of two rounds of budget reductions totaling $60 million that the governor made during the previous fiscal year. In addition, the governor tapped into the rainy day fund to transfer $110 million to avoid additional cuts during the last fiscal year.
The cuts during the previous fiscal year combined with the legislative appropriations made during the 2016 session already have forced multiple state agencies to layoff employees and make substantial cuts in state services. For instance, the Department of Mental Health has closed down its in-patient alcohol and drug treatment programs for males.
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