Lawmakers head home for the last time in the 2022 Legislative regular session.
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann wrapped up the 2022 Mississippi Legislative session by highlighting some key improvements lawmakers were able to make to state priorities.
Hosemann emphasized the teacher pay raise, and additional education dollars to improve schools as well as what he called “the most expansive infrastructure bill” the state has ever seen.
While some of that money has come from federal funds, the state appropriated an additional $240 million to infrastructure efforts to repair roads and bridges. The locations focused on in the plan were picked by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) as urgent needs.
Obvious large pieces of legislation to come out of the 2022 session include the medical marijuana program, redistricting for state and congressional districts, and the income tax cut.
Another thing Hosemann pointed out as a major win was that there was no bond bill, that means no additional debt to the state in the FY 2023 budget.
“We are not incurring any debt. In fact, over the next two years, we will write off over half a billion dollars in Mississippi making our financial statement very strong,” said Lt. Governor Hosemann.
Additional pay raises will go to Highway Patrol Officers, sheriffs and some raises for statewide officials. Hosemann said it is their hope that with these pay increases they will be able to retain good employees versus losing them to the private market.
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“This year we did something called SEC Squared which means we brought our employees up, much closer to a market value,” said Hosemann.
The Senate also pushed through an MFlex bill, which has come before the bodies several times over the last few years. This legislation will provide tax incentives to new and growing businesses to increase economic development.
Much of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were obligated this year. This appropriation is required by 2024, and funds must be spent by 2026. A total of $1.5 billion were allocated from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund to date; just under $300 million remain.
Those funds must be obligated in a manner that meets with federal guidelines. Some entities that received funding include Child Protective Services, Department of Health for rural water and sewer projects, Institutions of Higher Learning, Department of Mental Health, Department of Finance Administration, and Department of Public Safety, to name a few.
“I think we should all be very proud, very difficult issues this year from marijuana to teachers to business, you pick it,” said Hosemann. “They’d teed them all up and we addressed every single one of them.”
One issue that was not finalized was the initiative process. HCR 69 was put forward that would have rectified the ballot measure process, however it died in the conference process. Hosemann said an agreement could not be met as to what number of votes initiatives needed from each congressional district to be certified.
“We thought there should be an increase in number of people to be required [to certify],” said Hosemann. He said the Senate’s proposal would be closer to 180,000 signatures.