By Bill Crawford / Guest Columnist
The Meridian Star
MERIDIAN — By Bill Crawford
State tax revenues are headed up next year.
So, by gosh, let’s spend it!
That’s the way Mississippi government works, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans. Tax cuts, fee cuts, tuition cuts, and other cuts that would benefit individual taxpayers seldom get a foot in the door.
Bryant said his guiding principles were “spending prudently, saving for the future and prioritizing the core functions of government.”
Still, his budget ups spending by 4.8 percent to $6.1 billion. And, the one upcoming from the Legislative Budget Committee is expected to do the same.
That’s not to say the Governor’s budget is overly generous. It’s not. There are no pay raises and the biggest program, the Adequate Education Act funding public schools, remains flat at $2.06 billion.
However, it does prioritize most other big programs upward: Medicaid at $883.2 million up 5.1 percent; bonds and interest at $398 million up 6.2 percent; university support at $394 million up 5.3 percent; corrections at $362 million up 8.2 percent; community college support at $243 million up 3.4 percent; mental health at $236 million up 0.6 percent; the university medical center at $190 million up 2.5 percent; human services at $152 million up 4.7 percent; public safety programs totaling $85.9 million up 15 percent; Department of Revenue at $49 million up 21.6 percent; MDA at $22.2 million up 3 percent; IT services at $12.7 million up 111 percent; military department at $10.9 million up 46 percent; environmental quality at $10.6 million up 3.2 percent; agriculture and commerce at $9.8 million up 3 percent; and emergency management at $4.9 million up 28.4 percent.
Bryant also proposes $127.3 million in new spending: $86 million for improvements on school, community college, and university facilities; $22 million for targeted education programs; $8 million for community health centers, his Obamacare alternative; $6.9 million for highway patrol training and new cars; and $4.4 million for hospital uncompensated care. He does propose adding $118 million to the rainy day fund, but only after everything else gets paid for.
Additional programs prioritized for no increases are homestead exemption at $81.1 million; university agricultural units at $80.9 million; vocational and technical education at $77.9 million; public health at $62.5 million; rehabilitation services at $25.2 million; trial judges at $22.8 million; state aid roads at $20 million; forestry at $17.8 million; the Attorney General’s office at $13.5 million; libraries at $12 million; finance and administration at $11.8 million; blind and deaf schools at $10.8 million; wildlife and fisheries at $8.8 million; veterans affairs at $6.9 million; court of appeals at $5.6 million; and the Arts at $1.8 million.
Program prioritized for cuts are: Archives and History at $9 million down 2.7 percent; Administrative Office of Courts at $3.1 million down 1 percent; and ETV at $7.7 million down 0.5 percent.
Few cuts plus more spending always equals bigger government.