Negotiations will begin in earnest this week on developing a $19 billion state budget to fund everything from the public schools to highway construction and maintenance to health care.
The deadline for House and Senate negotiators to reach a budget deal is Saturday night. The deadline for that budget deal to be approved by both chambers of the Legislature is the following Monday, March 31.
But before deadlines can be met, House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said, “We have to know what the big number is.”
The big number the first-term speaker was referring to is the final estimate of the general fund revenue that will be available to appropriate this session for the budget year that begins July 1.
As chairman of the Legislative Budget Committee this session, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, will decide if and when to call a meeting of legislative leaders to increase that revenue estimate – and thus increase the amount of money available to appropriate.
“We are looking at the revenue closely,” Reeves said. “We will make a final decision sooner rather than later.” Reeves said earlier this month that he anticipates the revenue estimate being raised.
Obviously, the Legislative Budget Committee will have to meet this week – preferably by mid-week – if the revenue estimate is to be raised, giving legislators more money to plug many needs that have arisen during the 2014 session.
For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, revenue collections are more than $170 million over the estimate the Budget Committee adopted at the end of the 2013 session.