Legislature begins budget work as they attempt to wrap up 2022 session

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 7:45 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Lawmakers at the State Capitol are hopeful they are near the end of the 2022 legislative session. However, the big item left on the calendar Monday was the budget.

Budget talks frequently involve how much money the state’s going to borrow to make some projects happen but not this year.

“We’ve not had a bond bill,” explained Sen. Josh Harkins. “So, we’re not taking out additional debt; we’re paying off about $294 million in debt. We’re not increasing it by another $200 to $300 million in debt. So, by doing that, we’re lowering our debt service. And if we can do this another year or two later, we’ll reduce our debt by over half a billion...$600 or $700 million over the next two years, that decreases our debt service. Our goal is that we can continue to do this with the excess revenues to reinvest them wisely in our state.”

Instead of trying to borrow money to fund more projects, they’re paying some debt off. And they’re finding ways to direct money to things taxpayers have asked for like better roads and bridges; they’re looking to spend more than $200 million than last year.

“We are going to accelerate the amount of money to use for maintenance,” described Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann. “In addition to that, they are contributing money to start projects that would have been put off for later years.”

The road and bridge projects were selected by MDOT, not the legislature.

“What we did was accelerate the maintenance,” added Hosemann. “So instead of letting maintenance get so far down, that it becomes much more expensive. We also realize that the cost is going up. So every year we postponing it cost us now about 7% inflation.”

The plan includes $100 million for the system that helps fund county roads and bridges.

“I believe this plan is a wonderful way to advance the transportation needs in Mississippi and to start something that’s gonna be really great for us. We’re going to be back next year asking for something very similar to sort of keep progress moving, so I think it’s a great day for Mississippi and for transportation,” described Senate Transportation Chair Sen. Jenifer Branning.

Another need that will see more money funneled its way?

“I’m hoping that there’s something in there that we can do to help our state parks,” said Rep. Becky Currie.

“7,100,000,” replied Sen. Scott Bounds.

They’re also hoping to direct some of the federal ARPA funds to state park improvements in addition to that. Regardless of the agency, the overview of the recommended budget usually included phrases such as

“Funding for the salary progressions and the health insurance increase,” said Sen. Briggs Hopson.

The legislature is trying to help state agencies get their employees better pay in an effort to better compete with the private sector.

At last check, the two chambers plan to spend around $1.5 out of the $1.8 billion in the federal ARPA funds.

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