How Mississippi’s state budget shakes out is anyone’s guess at this point.
Leadership in both chambers are likely to wait as long as possible to take corrective action on the current FY 2020 state budget which ends June 30th, as well as on the adoption of the FY 2021 budget set to begin July 1st.
The reason is simple – the lingering uncertainty of the economic shutdown’s impact on tax revenue.
“We still have a month and a half left in this fiscal year, and need to see what the revenue projections are and how we are able to make our way through the rest of this year,” Mississippi Senate Appropriations Chairman Briggs Hopson told Y’all Politics walking into the Capitol. “We have April’s numbers in and they were not good. They were north of $200 million short and fortunately we did have some surpluses preceding that month. We had done well this year. We had had a good fiscal year in Mississippi but in one month we ate up almost all of the excess revenue that Mississippi had gained.”
Hopson said he and budget writers will look at May’s numbers when they come in to determine the extent of the bleeding.
“You got to figure since the first half of the month has been, for the most part, closed or limited in retail, in restaurants and in other operations that generate sales tax that’s going to have a pretty significant impact on the budget,” Sen. Hopson said. “Now as things are starting to open a little bit we might see some rebound effect. We have to factor in things like use tax is up but it’s probably not enough to offset the sales tax decreases.”
Another factor to consider is how delayed tax filing will impact the current fiscal year. The Department of Revenue initially moved the date back to May 15th but in consultation with the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker agreed to shift that to coincide with the federal deadline of July 15th.
“By pushing the tax return date back we certainly pushed back the opportunity to gain some revenue for individual and corporate income tax,” Sen. Hopson noted, “and that may put a strain on the ability to get through the year for state agencies and all those that rely on state funds.”
Budget cuts are all but certain, as is the likelihood of using the state’s Rainy Day funds to shore up current year shortfalls. Sen. Hopson said Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Philip Gunn sent letters to state agencies informing them of the impending decline in revenues and the need to be diligent.
“Most likely, we will have cuts and look at reserve funds and other ways to be creative to try to put together the budget for next year,” the Senate Appropriations Chairman said. “But it’s going to take a lot of examination this year of not only the revenue projections but also we are looking at what dollars are flowing in from the federal government for particular agencies within out state and how you put all that together to make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck as we set the budget for next year.”
According to the Legislature’s calendar, the adjusted deadline for original floor action on appropriations and revenue bills is June 23 with the deadline for conference reports for appropriations and revenue bills set for the 4th of July. Final adoption deadline is July 6th with Sine Die set for July 12th.
This means the FY 2021 state budget could be set after the new fiscal year begins, which could cause issue both legislatively and financially for state agencies. Exactly what will happen remains unclear.
“The Lt. Governor’s staff and the Speaker’s staff and their attorneys have all looked into that. I am certainly relying on all of their expertise in determining what the timelines and deadlines are for us finishing out this year’s session,” Sen. Hopson said. “I have not talked to the attorneys about that. We’re in extraordinary times but that’s something I will have a discussion about further. I think that they have given advice as to how and why and what should be expected if we have to roll into another fiscal year.
Sen. Hopson said these are indeed unprecedented times in a lot of ways, particularly as it relates to the state’s revenue projections and the upcoming budget, adding that agencies and the public who rely on state government should stay in the know but be understanding of the times in which we find ourselves.
“This is going to be a difficult year, the remainder of 2020 and 2021 will be difficult fiscal years,” said Sen. Hopson. “So agencies and all people out there that may rely on state agencies need to be aware of that and understand that these are not going to be normal times and things may have to be adjusted. Be alert and be understanding of how things may have to proceed going forward.”