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State agencies make budget pitches

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

State lawmakers are trying to figure out where to use your taxpayer dollars. The state brought in more money than they expected, but that doesn't mean they've got plenty of extra to pass around.

"I got picked apart today, I don't doubt that but it's not going to upset me. I'm going to continue to do my job," said Commissioner of Public Safety Albert Santa Cruz.

It wasn't a good day for Commissioner Cruz. His Department of Public Safety asked for the largest increase of any agency so far. They want 45 percent more from the state's general fund. State Sen. Terry Brown started the questioning. 

"That's just not realistic to me. I mean, I understand that you've got needs. Everybody that comes before us has got needs. Where do these numbers come from?" Brown asked.

DPS didn't give many details to justify the numbers but say they'll get them to the committee before the day is over.

"We didn't get that far with them. Our increase is self explanatory, and I think one of the reasons is we did not have the handouts that we should have had up here. It explains what the increases were and why they were there," explained Cruz.

Still, the committee was left with puzzled looks throughout the discussion.

"All due respect, nothing personal or anything, that was the worst presentation that I've ever witnessed being on the budget committee," said Sen. Brown.

The largest chunk of money for the DPS budget goes to the Mississippi Highway Patrol. They want nearly $8 million for trooper school. Speaker Philip Gunn says the public shouldn't tune it out. It's their money.

"Evaluate what the agency is doing, how did they spend the money we gave them last year, did it produce results?" said Gunn.

The Department of Education also asked for an increase today. They want to get back to fully funding K-12 public schools.

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