The Legislature will have more than $1.5 billion in extra General Fund money to spend next year, according to a report in Y’all Politics. That’s a big pot of extra money considering the total General Fund budget for the current fiscal year was $6.3 billion.

In the coming weeks legislators on the joint Legislative Budget Committee will gather to work on the budget plan for the 2023 legislative session. Actually, they will come to hear what Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the actual deciders, want them to do. Gunn rotated on as chairman of the committee this year.

If things go as usual, not much of the extra money will find its way into the initial budget plan. This approach would give Gunn and Hosemann the most flexibility for controlling appropriations during the session.

No doubt the beginning revenue estimate guiding appropriations for next year will take into account inflation. State agencies, universities, community colleges, schools and other entities that get General Fund money will be pushing for increases to cover their escalating costs.

The extra money is so-called “one-time” money. In other words, the excess may not be recurring so it should not be spent on recurring costs, unless legislative leaders decide otherwise as they have in the past. A short two-year trend indicates much of the increase may last, but phased in tax cuts will dampen that some. Also much of the extra money resulted from income taxes generated by massive stimulus dollars that have now gone away.

It will be illuminating to see how the budget committee manages discussions about extra money utilization. Besides ever present needs to better fund education, Medicaid, and road and bridge repairs, here are some possible uses:

Other states experiencing revenue bumps sent cash rebates to taxpayers. Georgia gave single taxpayers $250, married couples $500.

Last week State Auditor Shad White said he favored a state earned income tax credit to benefit low income workers. Gov. Phil Bryant proposed a version of this in 2014 but the Legislature failed to approve it.

Money is needed quickly for the state to comply with the federal court order to improve mental health services. People jailed an average of 25 days waiting for a hospital bed is “a clearly unacceptable pattern,” wrote court appointed monitor Michael Hogan.

Patients will have to travel to Memphis, Mobile, or Augusta, GA when Mississippi’s only burn center, the JMS Burn and Reconstruction Center at Merit Health Central in south Jackson, closes Oct. 14th.

Jackson wants money to help pay for fixes to its water system not covered by federal disaster relief or federal infrastructure money.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center will likely take over operation of the failing Greenwood Leflore Hospital but suffers its own financial issues from its dispute with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

My bet is the most significant use of the extra money will be to accelerate income tax cuts, even though that is not an appropriate use of one-time money.

“Help others, and you will be helped” – Proverbs 11:25.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.


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