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Legislators are fast approaching the end of the 2017 session, meaning the FY 2018 state budget is about to be front and center over the next three weeks, and it’s safe to say everyone is feeling the crunch.

Lagging state revenues have forced Gov. Phil Bryant to make budget cuts and dip into the rainy day fund this fiscal year causing much consternation on both sides of the aisle.

The lag has also provided legislative Democrats with ammunition against the Republican supermajority. The yellow dogs, led by House Democrat leader Rep. David Baria and state Sen. David Blount, have taken the opportunity to repeatedly call for the repeal of the 2016 tax cuts.

There are already signs of tensions breaking things apart at the seams. Sen. Hob Bryan last week took some verbal exception to Lt. Gov Tate Reeves adjourning early by asking for a "ROLL CALL! ROLL CALL! ROLL CALL!".

The audio was cut off before what other members and Geoff Pender mentioned was Bryan saying something to the effect that "This means war! This means thermonuclear war!" My sense is that there will be some bills read at a fast pace on the Senate side by machine this week.

The most politically divisive items – rewriting the state’s education funding formula and infrastructure maintenance and repair - have yet to have their day at the well, and it’s becoming more and more unlikely that either will be addressed in this regular session.

Speaker Philip Gunn has indicated a special session could be a possibility to address the rewrite of MAEP and Gov. Bryant has been amenable to the idea if there is an acceptable plan both chambers can get behind. Word around the Capitol is that legislation is in the works but there has been nothing available as of yet to review publicly.

House Transportation Committee chair Rep. Charles Busby has been actively making the case for the need to address the failing infrastructure of Mississippi’s roads and bridges, and the Mississippi Economic Council, the state’s chamber of commerce, has made it known its large membership wants to see a plan for transportation improvements. Options have included a gas tax increase, indexing, and even taxing online sales or a state lottery. But given the “Not 1 More Cent” push against the notion of raising more funds by the Mississippi chapter of Americans for Prosperity and other groups any plan to address the funding of infrastructure repairs remains slim this session.

While placeholder bills and various appropriations measures will be shuffled through both the House and Senate over the next few days, nothing solid will develop on the FY18 state budget until conference weekend, March 23-25. That will be where the state’s monetary future will come into focus, and that will be when the real gnashing of teeth from all sides begins in earnest.

Posted March 13, 2017 - 10:59 am

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