The Mississippi Joint Legislative Budget Committee held their first meeting with department heads to begin to establish agency budgets for FY 2023. 

Members of the Mississippi House and Senate that sit on the Joint Legislative Budget committee heard from representatives of nearly a dozen agencies on Friday in regards to what they project their budget needs will be for FY 2023, calling attention to requested increases, decreases and other adjustments to be made from FY 2022.

Transportation

Executive Director for the Department of Transportation Brad White presented the FY 2023 budget requests at the Friday LBO hearings. Their projections for FY 2023 do not change from the projected costs for FY 2022, with a budget expectation of $1.2 billion.

Over half of the agency’s budget comes from $600 million in federal dollars. Fuel tax also contributes just over $308 million and receipts and transfers are roughly $149 million in revenue. The Mississippi Lottery sent $90 million to the department this year, and their projections for next year are in line with that at this time.

MDOT has requested an increase in construction from $754.5 million in FY22 up to $816.7 million in FY23. Salaries have decreased from a total of $184.6 million in FY22 to an estimated $176.6 million in projections for FY23.

Corrections

Commissioner Burl Cain told lawmakers Corrections is still working hard to secure the appropriate amount of staffing the department needs. In 2021, they saw a hiring increase of 495 people, however they lost 223 of their already employed workforce, resulting in a gain of 311 employees.

Cain said the department does plan to ask for additional position salaries. They are working hard to promote hiring with fliers and events, the Commissioner said, noting that the starting salaries are at $31,800 and $35,000 for an individual with a college degree.

A new project endeavor is the use of the Walnut Grove facility. Cain said they are using the Palmetto model to bring in 32 inmates for 45 days for intense drug treatment. They will shift in January to a new group of 32 and the original 32 will go into “after care.” Cain said once an individual is sent to Walnut Grove for this program they will not leave until they are released from prison and transitioned back into society.

Commissioner Cain said inmates who are enrolled in that program have to want to be there and must have a year remaining on their sentence. MDOC is partnering with Medicaid to ensure that after release from prison these inmates are set up for success with partnerships with the same therapists. 

Education

State Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright said the overall ask for the Mississippi Department of Education is now totaling $3 billion. That ask includes some increases and the full funding of MAEP at $2.7 billion.

Wright said they are increasing their ask for Early Childhood Learning for an additional $10.3 million. She said studies show children who attend a high quality pre-K, which is what Mississippi is offering, graduate on time, become employed and are known to have significantly less criminal involvement, if any.

Other requested increases included professional development, Districts of Innovation, Match Coaches with a returned investment of $5.3 million, MCOPS for an additional $1 million, the establishment of an office of test security where additional employment pins will be needed, and increased accreditation audits at $331,000.

Dr. Wright said she is often asked how much of the budget goes to administration costs. Currently, that number sits at 1.24 percent, which she indicated was a pretty tight ship.

Medicaid

Director of the Division of Medicaid Drew Snyder reported to lawmakers that they project a budget ask of $899,915,751 for the FY 2023 year. This is an even projection with the allocation from FY 2022.

Federal funding will stand at $5.2 billion, with the state support well under $1 billion. This brings the state’s total Medicaid budget to roughly $6,611,874,111.

Even with a significant uptick in enrollment, from 675,125 in 2020 to 781,394 as of August 2021 due to the pandemic, there was no anticipated increase in the state’s share.

Hospital assessments come to $266,051,853, which is the other largest source of revenue for the division. Following that item is long-term care facilities, other state agencies, and drug rebates.

Economic Update

State Economist Corey Miller discussed how U.S. employment growth has been robust in 2021 through August. He stated that Mississippi has recovered 76.2% of the jobs lost in March and April of 2020.

Miller said that though the U.S. and Mississippi economies continue to recover, recovery remains uneven. He said the state can expect relatively strong growth in 2021 before a deceleration to near or slightly above pre-recession trends in 2022.

Miller explained that the GDP is expected to grow 5.5% for 2021 and the national GDP is projected to grow by 5.7%. Miller said the state’s GDP growth is projected to decelerate in 2022. Through August of this year, the state has added 6,600 jobs and projects an inflation rate of 4.2% for the year.

Human Services

The Mississippi Department of Human Services requested an increase in General Funds. MDHS requested $8,000,000 for Youth Services and $3,922,743 for Aging and Adult Services. They also requested to maintain the $5,000,000 of Capital Expense/State Support Funds that were appropriated in FY 2022.

MDHS asked for a General Fund increase of $11,922,743 to provide statutorily required services for youth through the Adolescent Opportunity Programs and Older Mississippians through APS, the MS Dementia Care Program, and Home Delivered Meals.

The Department also asked for a reappropriation of $5,000,000 in Capital Expense Funds in order to continue the initial assessment and planning of their project to overhaul outdated legacy systems.

Mental Health

The Department of Mental Health presented highlights from FY21, including a 9% decrease in admissions to state hospitals compared to FY20 and 1,769 acute psychiatric admissions in FY21 versus 1,938 in FY20.

General funds MSDMH requested include a $6,786,349 increase from FY22, which includes $1 million for expansion of mental health community‐based services for data enhancement and an utilization review, $4,900,389 for Forensic Unit at MSH, and $885,960 for MSH Psychiatry Residency Program.

Some of the goals that MSDMH has for FY22 and FY23 are to increase crisis stabilization beds and add CPSSs at all units, as well as expand services for behavioral health crisis, expand access to addiction services, and increase statewide their outreach campaign for service availability.

Public Safety

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety presented a $51.6 million budget request increase. The majority of the budget is for salary increases, new pins, realignments for law enforcement officers, the crime lab and starting a new cyber unit within the Office of Homeland Security.

The salary increase portion is nearly $26.8 million. This would include efforts to employ 550 troopers, have a commercial trucking enforcement division, and a Capitol Police force of 150, with officers in those other two divisions earning 90% of what troopers make annually.

DPS also projects expenditures of approximately $13.4 million which makes up the largest portion of the remainder of the budget increase, with $6.7 million of that designated for an upgraded computer system.

**With contributions from staff writer, Anne Summerhays**