By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Legislators in the upcoming 2013 session will have about $300 million more to fund state government than they did in 2012.
A portion of those funds – as much as $130 million – is committed to such items as reserve accounts, but in past years during the economic downturn, the Legislature changed the law to have some of those reserve funds available to budget.
Gov. Phil Bryant and the 14 members of the Legislative Budget Committee met Monday to officially set the revenue projection for the 2013 Legislature to use as it appropriates money for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The governor and legislative leaders, based on recommendations from the state’s financial experts, agreed on a revenue estimate of $5.02 billion, a 1.6 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The committee also increased the estimate for the current fiscal year by $118 million.
Those changes combined with the unspent funds from the previous fiscal year give legislators the approximately $300 million in unallocated revenue. Some of those funds might be needed to fill budget holes in some agencies for the current year, such as Medicaid and Corrections.
Third quarter progress
State Economist Darrin Webb said the state economy improved somewhat in the third quarter after slipping back into recession in the second quarter.
“This improvement is not yet strong enough or long enough to say that we have exited the recession, but it does appear headed in that direction,” Webb said.
He said Mississippi continues to lag in jobs growth, saying the state “has roughly the same number of people employed in 2012 as it did in the mid-’90s.”
He told the committee the state economy should be strong enough to meet “the modest” revenue growth projection recommended by him and other state financial experts.
Bryant agreed, saying it is a conservative estimate “and I appreciate that.”
Both Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, and Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said the estimate means there will not be much opportunity to increase spending in the 2013 session.