Mississippi lawmakers OK early version of budget bills

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi legislators are starting to pass the first versions of budget bills for the year that begins July 1.

However, much of what they’re approving now is likely to change.

The House and Senate face a late-April deadline to allocate money for everything from schools to prisons.

Top lawmakers say the state will spend roughly $5.6 billion in state money, with much more coming from federal sources.

For now, the House is planning to pad out the budget by pulling $48 million from cash reserves of agencies such as the Insurance Department and the Coast Coliseum, that mainly fund themselves through fees and special taxes.

Some lawmakers are complaining about that plan, and House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson, a Poplarville Republican, says reserve use might decline in the final budget.