This weekend is Conference weekend at the Mississippi State Capitol. This is the time that appropriations, finance, and general bills are finalized, dotted lines are signed, and most of it happens quietly and behind closed doors. These bills will determine the budget for state agencies for the next fiscal year.
The deadline for those conference reports was 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night.
This weekend lawmakers from the House and Senate will finalize:
- The budget for Child Protection Services, HB 1601. The House and Senate filed reports for the CPS budget. Sunday the House voted to send it, and 18 other bills back to conference, putting a Monday night deadline on the legislation. The bill appropriates $97.9 million from the state’s General Fund, and $137.2 million of special funds. CPS shocked lawmakers with a $40 million shortfall in budget needs, something that was not expected and could potentially affect federally matched funds. CPS has been a stand alone agency for two years, but another bill this session would put the agency back under the Department of Human Services, potentially solving some budget concerns. That bill is SB 2675, and would put the department back under DHS but allow the commissioner to maintain operational control over CPS services. Also, conservative budget estimates approved in the JLBC on Friday could mean more money for agencies like CPS.
2. The budget for the Department of Education, HB 1592. A “dummy” bill was submitted on deadline day, the House chose to recommit the bill back to conference. All decisions will have to be made by Monday night. Since the new education funding formula was killed in the Senate, that means lawmakers will be funding Education according to the still standing formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The bill appropriates about $2.2 million to the department from the states General Fund, and $1.2 million in Special Funds. Education Chair Sen. Tollison said many provisions covered in what would have been the new formula will now not be covered in general funding, that includes $109 million phased in over the next seven years, and $25 million more for teachers in the classroom.
3. The budget for the Department of Transportation, HB 1597. The budget was recommitted back to conference for further discusion.A budget must be adopted by Monday night. MDOT has come to the attention of lawmakers several times this session. A bill was killed in committee that would have removed the department from under the State Personnel Board. The aim was to help the MDOT change employee salaries to employ less people, with better pay decreasing turnover rate. The current appropriations bill sends $1.09 billion in General Funds. However, with the Bridge Act, SB 3046, MDOT could lose up to $25 million from their general budget if passed.
4. The bridge act died, as expected, in Conference on Saturday. Speaking of the Bridge Act, it was not concurred on and thus invited for conference. The Bridge Act was promoted by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and authored by Sen. Fillingane and Sen. Simmons. The bill, also called, the Billion Dollar Infrastructure Bill, would appropriate $240 million for immediate local infrastructure needs, $600 million for long-term bridge and road repair, $125 million in increased funds for cities and $200 million in emergency bridge repair. The money will come from MDOT, general bonds, grants, some local funds and matching federal funds.
UPDATE: According to statements made by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn after today’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee meeting, the Bridge Act is dead. Gunn said House and Senate members could not come to an agreement when it came to requiring towns to match dollar for dollar state funds.
5. A finance that is still alive that could have a serious impact on Mississippi’s givers is a tax credit bill for certain contributions to charitable organizations, HB 1566. This bill would authorize separate income tax credits for voluntary cash contributions to charitable organizations and charitable foster care organizations. This applies to families participating as foster families to receive tax credits. The charitable organizations must have written certification that they meet all qualifying criteria to be considered.
6. When it comes to bond bills the Institute for Higher Learning, IHL, has several on the chopping block including an all inclusive bill, SB3047.(Died in conference) This bill would authorize capital improvements for state institutes of higher learning, community and junior colleges and state agencies. In conference they’ll also discuss a General support bill, SB 2944,(recommitted back to conference for further discussion) Subsidiary Programs (includes laboratories and programs for which the Board of Trustees is responsible), SB 2945, Student Financial Aid, SB 2946, and of course specific bills for each individual university, community college, and junior college in the state.
7. HB 1650 is pretty much an “all inclusive,” “in case we missed” IHL bond bill. This bill covers any state obligated bonds for repairs or renovations for state institutes of Higher learning. The total monies used in this bond comes to just over $9.75 million. This special fund created will be designated as the “2018 IHL Repair and Renovation Fund.”
8. One of this years big ticket items was a revision of services and programs for the Department of Medicaid. The Senate bill authored by Sen. Wiggins, SB 2836 is currently in conference, along with it’s appropriations bill HB 1598. On Sunday, Rep. Currie offers a motion to recommit the Medicaid appropriations bill until a Medicaid Tech bill can be agreed upon. The motion passed, putting Medicaid funding in a compromising position. According to the legislation Medicaid would be appropriated $41.4 million out of General Funds for FY2019 and just over $4.6 billion from special funds in the State Treasury. The bill would also credit the Medical Care Fund just over $389 million for assistance under the Mississippi Medicaid Law. Medicaid also receives matching federal funds and under the current appropriations bill that number would total close to $69 million to be matched.