Budget hearings: 2 state agencies actually request less

Leaders of several state agencies asked lawmakers for more money on Monday, the start of annual budget hearings before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

But two agencies — the Secretary of State’s Office and the Department of Insurance, asked for less.

“The agencies are starting to get the message that they don’t need to come in here and ask for large increases unless you can justify it,” said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who is presiding over this year’s hearings, the first step in setting a more than $5.7 billion state budget.

Reeves and others grilled several agencies about their travel, hiring, salaries, office expansions and equipment purchases. Monday’s budget requests included:

Mississippi Development Authority: The state’s economic development agency asked for a $646,000 increase to its $21.5 million budget, mainly for increased marketing in tourism and travel.

Reeves grilled the agency, asking about $500,000 or so in out-of-state travel and its use of the state plane. He said the agency appears to have used the plane for 32 trips. He said he understands the 15-18 trips where MDA Director Brent Christensen was onboard were for economic development but “what I am concerned about is the 14 or so taken when you weren’t on the plane.”

Clarion Ledger