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Appropriations chairmen signal they are...

Appropriations chairmen signal they are close to an agreement on Mississippi’s FY2024 budget

By: Sarah Ulmer - March 24, 2023

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Briggs Hobson, R-Vicksburg (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis - Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The major point of contention appears to be the Senate’s late session MAEP proposal which would increase appropriations by $181 million this year.

The Mississippi House and Senate Appropriations chairmen have both indicated that an agreement on the Fiscal Year 2024 state budget is close to its final form.

State Representative John Read (R) and Senator Briggs Hopson (R) told reporters separately on Friday that they expected to have a nearly finalized budget by Saturday morning.

“We have been meeting for three or four days now and it just takes time to work out getting down to the exact penny. Has it been smooth sailing? Most of the way, but we do have a couple bumps,” said Rep. Read. “I think everyone is trying to work towards a common goal.”

The House chairman added that he believes it will be a conservative budget but did not go into detail on the numbers.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman John O. Read, R-Gautier, left, confers with House Local and Private Legislation Committee Chairman Manly Barton, R-Moss Point, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis – Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“We are looking at all the agencies’ numbers and needs, where any additional expenditures may be needed or where cuts can be taken,” said Senator Hopson.

The Senate chairman signaled that they are looking at some agencies that could need additional employee help and some that have operational challenges due to inflation’s impact on the market.

Sen. Hopson echoed Rep. Read’s comments that there could be a few budgets that will have to be recommitted as “hollow bills,” where numbers will need to be revised.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee met in late 2022 and set the FY2024 estimate at $7.5 billion, which is over $500 million more than last year. The total state support portion was agreed upon at $6,989,435,095 in that meeting. This takes $55.7 million more in General Funds than were appropriated in FY 2023. 

Talk around the Capitol has centered around the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) proposal by the Senate late in the session as one of the major hold ups, mainly because it could call for an increase in that previously agreed upon budget number.

The Senate’s proposal was to fully fund the program, an additional $181 million to the current allocation, and a change in the formula to potentially keep it fully funded in future years. HB 1617, the funding mechanism, has been referred to conference but it is unclear where the final number will end up.

“No decision has been made on MAEP. That’s a big part of the budget. Still negotiating on that,” said Sen. Hopson. “We’ll see where that goes.”

“That has not been brought up,” according to Rep. Read.

Senator Dennis DeBar (R), Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said he has continued conversations with House Education Chairman Rep. Richard Bennett (R) on MAEP as well as the whole education budget.

“We’re still working through the process, optimistic that we will get close, if not full funding,” said DeBar.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn (R) said in a recent update he received, the chambers are still apart on a final budget number. Gunn said he was told the Senate budget number was higher than what the House was comfortable with at this juncture.

“I think they are still apart on a number. We on the House side are trying to hold down spending. I think that is one reason why our budget is in such great shape,” said Gunn. “It’s my understanding that the Senate is looking to spend a whole lot more money than we are willing to do.”

Speaker Gunn added that the House’s goal is to keep spending close to where it is now.

Senator Hopson said no final numbers have been discussed at this point.

“I’ve never heard a number. I’ve heard people talk about a number but nobody has come to me saying there is a certain number. We have not said on our side that there is a certain number,” said Hopson.

The Senate chairman said they are continuing to look at each agency individually and determine what the needs are and what can be provided.  

Both Senate Appropriations Chairman Hopson and House Appropriations Chairman Read indicated that they do anticipate having a complete budget approved prior to sine die.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: