By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which provides the state’s share of the basics for operating local school districts, was level-funded in the budget recommendation released Tuesday by the Legislative Budget Committee.
Level funding is an estimated $285 million short of full funding. If the the 2014 Legislature passed the recommendation of the 14 House and Senate leaders who compose the Budget Committee, it would mean that since 2008 Adequate Education would have been underfunded by about $1.5 billion
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who chairs the Budget Committee this year, and House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, both stressed that the proposal released Tuesday is a starting point.
The full Legislature and Gov. Phil Bryant face a deadline in April to complete the task of funding all aspects of state government — from transportation, to health care, to public safety, plus education.
But Reeves said the Budget Committee proposal, if adopted as is, would be sufficient to run state government at adequate levels.
The proposal totals $5.86 billion in state-support funding — a $36.3 million increase from the budget passed for the current fiscal year by the 2013 Legislature.
The proposal totals $19.4 billion when federal funds and special funds are factored in. Special funds include such spending as special taxes or fees to run specific agencies, such as barbers paying a fee to fund the agency that regulates them.
Reeves said the budget “is the most fiscally responsible” in recent years. He said it does not spend any non-recurring funds on recurring expenses and maintains $584 million in reserves.
Community colleges would receive an increase of $13.8 million while the eight public universities would garner an additional $22.9 million. Education on the kindergarten through 12th grade level receive an additional $20 million directed at specific areas, such as $5.5 million for a literacy program.
Reeves said the increases in public education are targeted at areas where the committee believes the most difference can be made.