The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) is starting the process of putting together a state budget and heard on September 24 from state agency heads on how much money they require for fiscal 2023, which begins July 1.
The committee also received estimates of future tax revenues that will aid in their planning of the budget. The JLBC’s document acts as a roadmap for lawmakers as they put together the separate appropriation bills in May that comprise the state’s budget.
Here are three of the largest agencies in terms of general fund outlays:
The Mississippi Department of Education’s (MDE) annual Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) funding formula calculation comes to $2.705 billion. These funds provide most of the funding for school districts statewide. Last year, lawmakers passed a bill that held districts harmless for average daily attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant that they could use the numbers from 2020 for the purpose of calculating MAEP.
The MDE said they will recalculate the formula with updated attendance numbers in December.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann told MDE officials that lawmakers wanted an accurate count for the purposes of calculating MAEP more accurately.
Since a 2017 state Supreme Court decision, lawmakers can disregard the recommendation and often do, with the appropriation coming in hundreds of millions of dollars below the MAEP.
The MAEP formula consists of average daily attendance times base student cost, plus at-risk component minus local contribution plus eight-percent guarantee. Then, only after add-on programs — transportation, special education, gifted education, vocational and alternative education — are added to the formula allocation is the final MAEP funding request calculated.
The department also wants an additional $100 million in general fund to cover underfunding from fiscal 2022 and $58 million to cover an increase in add-on programs for the MAEP.
For the third straight year, the MDE also wants more money to modernize the Mississippi Student Information System. Part of the $88 million in COVID-19 related federal funds that the department sought emergency spending authority from the Information Technology Services Board will be spent on this project as well.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) wants an increase of 10.21 percent from $372 million in fiscal 2022 to more than $410 million. Much of that, $51 million for salaries, wages and benefits, would be earmarked to cover the hiring of new correctional officers to fill vacancies and get the department up to federal standards.
Corrections commissioner Nathan “Burl” Cain told the committee that his agency has hired 495 corrections officers this year, but lost 223, which ended up being a net gain of 311.
“We’ve got a long way to prevent the (federal) consent decree from coming,” Cain said. “We’re asking you for some more positions that our consultants have told us we need to have.”
He also said that House Bill 2795, which went into effect on July 1, has already led to parole for 400 inmates and prorated over the rest of the year would reduce the state’s prison population by 2,400. The MDOC has had a September average of 17,537 inmates in custody at present.
The Medicaid department is seeking $899 million from the state general fund, which is the same as last budget year. The good news is that Medicaid won’t be seeking a deficit appropriation for fiscal 2022, the fourth consecutive year with no deficit appropriation.
Medicaid director Drew Snyder told the JLBC that Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment has increased by 15.4 percent since March 2020.
In Mississippi, the way the budget process works is that state agencies submit budget requests by August 1.
The JLBC meets every September to hear agency heads make their pitches for their budget requests and to also receive estimates of the state’s tax revenues.
The JLBC meets in November to put together a budget and later releases the budget blueprint in December.
The governor also submits a proposed budget as well.