By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The Mississippi Legislature will begin the 2014 session with a substantial financial cushion thanks to a record-setting year for state revenue collections.
Preliminary numbers indicate the state is ending the fiscal year with $295 million more than the estimate that was used by the 2012 Legislature to construct the budget for the just-completed fiscal year.
Much of that surplus will be available for the 2014 Legislature to appropriate, though final numbers on the amount available for the 2014 session were still being compiled Tuesday by the staff of the Legislative Budget Committee.
The just completed fiscal year will mark the first time the state has exceeded $5 billion in revenue collections.
Gov. Phil Bryant issued a statement Tuesday saying collections for the past fiscal year provide evidence the state economy is improving.
“Our state’s strong performance is a result of not only new jobs and economic activity but also fiscal prudence,” Bryant said. “In each of my executive budget recommendations, I have urged the Legislature to save a portion of revenues instead of spending everything we take in. Lawmakers have heeded my calls, and Mississippi is now on more stable financial footing as a result. They should certainly continue this practice.”
While the state’s jobs recruitment efforts have garnered attention in some national publications recently, Mississippi’s May unemployment rate of 9.1 percent is tied for the second highest nationally and was above May’s national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Still, revenue collections are encouraging. The state was projected to collect $4.94 billion by legislative leaders for the just-completed 2013 fiscal year. Before 2013, the best year for state revenue collections was fiscal year 2008 before the financial downturn occurred.
After 2008, state revenue collections were less than the previous year for two consecutive years for the first time in recent memory.
State revenue includes sales taxes on retail items, income taxes, taxes on income, casino gambling taxes, taxes on insurance premiums and various other taxes.