Budget Committee to hear from state agencies

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The process of developing a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins nearly 10 months from now on July 1, will start later this month.
The 14-member Legislative Budget Committee will hear funding requests from most of the major agencies during the week of Sept. 17.
The Budget Committee, which consists of House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and other key legislators, will then develop a proposal that will be used as a guideline for the 2013 Legislature when developing a budget to fund state government.
Reeves said, “The hearings will give the Legislative Budget Committee a snapshot of state agencies’ list of priorities, but my hope is agency heads will use this as an opportunity to make recommendations on actions the Legislature may take to save money in their department.
“We must change the mentality from one in which agencies ask for their every wish to be fulfilled to one in which we are all working together to find efficiencies in government and cut expenses.”
It is not uncommon for the additional spending requests that surface during the Budget Committee hearings to total more than $1 billion. But some agency heads point out they are legally bound to give the legislative budget leaders an accurate account of their needs.
For instance, state law requires the state Board of Education to report the amount of money needed to fully fund the Adequate Education Program that provides the state’s share of funding for the local school districts. State law also requires the Legislature to fully fund the program, though it has done so only twice since it was enacted in 2002.
With Republicans controlling the Governor’s Mansion and both chambers of the Legislature for the first time since the 1800s, Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, said he does not believe the hearings will be as contentious as they were when the Democrats controlled the House and the Republicans the Senate.
But Flaggs, who was placed on the committee by the Republican leadership, said he believes it will be productive to hear from agency heads.
“We will get to ask questions about their budget requests,” Flaggs said.
Flaggs said the meetings also were important to allow members of the public who are interested in the state budget to attend and obtain valuable information.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com