By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – In the coming days, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to convene the 14-member Legislative Budget Committee to consider raising the revenue estimate, meaning the Legislature will have more money to appropriate as it attempts to pass a budget before the March 31 deadline.
For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, revenue collections are more than $170 million more than what was appropriated by the Legislature during the 2013 session.
“I believe the revenue estimate is likely to be raised,” Reeves said recently.
At some point soon, the Republican lieutenant governor said the state’s financial experts – the state economist, treasurer, fiscal officer, a member of the Budget Committee staff and the tax commissioner – will discuss the possibility of raising the estimate.
And based on the group’s recommendation, Reeves, as chairman of the Budget Committee, will decide whether to convene the Budget Committee, which consists of Speaker Philip Gunn and other legislative leaders, to vote on raising the estimate.
The chairmanship of the Budget Committee alternates yearly between the speaker and the lieutenant governor.
Raising the estimate means more money would be available for raising teacher pay. Both chambers have said that is a priority.
The $1,500 teacher pay raise approved by the Senate would cost nearly $65 million. The House’s $500 raise, slated to begin on Jan. 1 as opposed to the start of the fiscal year on July 1, would cost about $25 million.
The size of the raise the two chambers agree to could be decided by whether the revenue estimate is raised. But Reeves, who has voiced opposition to spending one-time money for recurring expenses, such as on a pay raise, said increasing teacher pay is important enough to dip into the state’s reserves to pay for it.
The state has more than $500 million in various reserve funds.
While the Senate is proposing a larger teacher pay raise for the upcoming fiscal year, Reeves has been critical of how much the House has spent in other areas.
He said that the size of the budget increases, tax breaks and bond issues passed by the House would result in a nearly $1 billion impact on the general fund.
“Obviously a large percentage of those bills are not passing the Senate,” Reeves said. “It is difficult to say no to your friends, but I have shown that I am willing to say no to my friends.”