OUR OPINION: One-time money banks on chance

Daily Journal Editorial

The Legislative Budget Committee’s continuing struggle to rein in one-time spending in the Mississippi budget cycle isn’t a unique situation among state or local governments across the nation, but it is a matter of realism related to money available on a continuing basis matched with continuing needs.

As Capitol Bureau Chief Bobby Harrison reported Sunday, the 2014 budget (the current cycle) has $420.1 million in one-time money – money that’s plugged in to pay for recurring programs and needs even though it won’t recur next year in most instances.

The uncertainty and fallacy is that one-time funding places programs at risk of underfunding or extinction if a source isn’t found during budget-formulations beginning next month and during the 2014 legislative session for the 2015 budget cycle.

The $420.1 million is measured against the $5.8 billion budget, and the amount seems small until there’s no source to replace it to continue the programs it funds.

Reducing the one-time money used to fund recurring expenses has been a goal of House and Senate leaders and of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.

The issue isn’t fully partisan because one-time money from time to time gets the vote of people in both parties who don’t like it but consider it necessary.

Our neighbors in Louisiana have seen a battle royal in the Louisiana Legislature this year over one-time money proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, who found himself opposed on the issue by many Republicans when the nitty-gritty of legislating started.

The one-time amount was reduced to about $100 million, coincidentally the same amount some legislative leaders in Mississippi have said is manageable in our state’s budget.

The Legislative Budget Committee, which consists of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Speaker Philip Gunn and 12 other House and Senate leaders, will begin meeting in September to develop a budget proposal for the 2014 Legislature.

If anyone could assure a thriving, growing state economy the concern about one-time money wouldn’t be so large, but Mississippi has limped along in recent years with slow growth in revenues and even one decline.

At some point, the need for revenue to sustain necessary programs will meet head on with those who oppose tax increases on principle.

At that point, maybe the leadership will find a justified tax increase as did Gov. Haley Barbour when he relented and signed Mississippi’s first tobacco tax increase since 1985.