The fourteen member, bipartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee on December 3 released it’s budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2015, which begins July 1, 2014. Here is a link to the LBO recommendation. Although only a recommendation, the unanimously-adopted “LBR” will provide a roadmap for the respective House and Senate appropriations committees as they begin their actual budget preparation work during the 2014 Regular Session which gets underway in Jackson on January 7. The full Legislature is expected to adopt the final FY‘15 state budget in late March or early April.

General Fund revenues conservatively are projected to increase by 2.7% over the current year. The total recommended state support budget for FY’15 is $5.862 Billion, or $36.3 Million (0.6%) more than was spent in FY’14.

Of great significance is the fact that the recommended FY’15 Budget contains ZERO “one-time” monies spent for recurring expenses. The FY’14 budget was propped up with $234 Million in one-time monies, which itself was the lowest such amount in many years, but with it’s FY’15 proposal, the Joint Committee prudently replaces these funds with recurring (not “one time”) revenue. Bonding agencies recently have warned the state against over-reliance upon “one-time” monies (the all-time high was a whopping $642 Million in FY’05) to keep spending artificially high, and the reduction in the use of non-recurring revenues to fund recurring expenses is a major goal of the fiscally-conservative Legislative leadership.

A further sound fiscal practice reflected in the Joint Committee’s recommendation is the retention of a total of $538 Million in unallocated reserves. One reason our state was able to continue to fund critical priorities in the extremely lean recessionary years beginning in 2008 was because the Legislature in prior years had sensibly set aside large reserves to hedge against just such a fiscal downturn. It is a high priority of the House and Senate leadership to make sure that we maintain sufficient reserves to cushion Mississippi’s budget from future drops in anticipated revenue.

Educational expenditures are increased in the LBO recommendation by more than the total rise in overall state support spending. If the LBO numbers ultimately are adopted by the Legislature, general support for IHL (universities) will increase by 2.6% over FY’14, and Community College general support will be bumped up by 3.3%. Although MAEP will be level-funded (given the same amount in FY’15 as for the current year), general support for K-12 education will increase by 12.9%. Indeed, the state support budget for K-12 education for the past three fiscal years (FY’13 through FY’15 LBO proposal) reflects a total increase of over $115 Million, all during some of the leanest budget years in recent memory.

Rep. Greg Snowden