The Mississippi Legislature will convene Monday at 4:00 in what appears to be an attempt to finally set the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year.

What is typically not a controversial state agency budget has caused disagreement between lawmakers and the Governor’s office. The opposing opinions surround the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act or GOMESA funds. These federal dollars come from a revenue-sharing model for oil and gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico and split between Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

This year, Mississippi received $51 million in GOMESA funds.

In 2019, the Legislature appropriated all $30 million in GOMESA funds to DMR to be dispersed per the Mississippi Code of 1972. According to members, this was the sticking point for the House in the 2020 Session.

Since 2006, in Mississippi the Governor has approved project proposals submitted to DMR and coordinated with that office as to who gets the funding. But this year, the House of Representatives has fought for the ability to approve the funding for those projects within the DMR Appropriations budget. This has caused the back and forth between the House and Senate.

“The position of the House is that it is not good public policy to allow any one person to have unfettered control over $46,000,000 without any oversight or checks and balances,” Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said when the Legislature adjourned on August 11 without a DMR budget.

Senator Scott DeLano (R)

Senator Scott DeLano (R) of Harrison County told Y’all Politics that members have now reached an agreement on how the funds will be split.

According to DeLano:

  • Legislature will re-authorize $27 million in projects designated by former Governor Phil Bryant.
  • They will use $20 million of the new money and split it between Governor Tate Reeves and the Legislature, $10 million each.
  • For the Legislature’s portion, the Governor will submit a list of approved projects that they will confirm and place in the DMR appropriations bill.

DeLano said the $10 million in project funds left up to the Legislature will not be listed in this year’s bill, as they have not been fully vetted by the Governor’s office.

“This is setting up a larger issue for next year because they’re leaving out a lot of money by only appropriating $20 million between the two,” said DeLano. He added that there should be $10 or $15 million roughly left over when they return to set the budget for FY2022.

The changes should come in the form of a conference report on Monday, which DeLano indicated should be quickly passed and moved through both chambers.

When lawmakers return in January, they will have what was left over from this year’s GOMESA funds, as well as what is given out next year.  He says that could lead to another debate over the dollars.