New budgeting rule adopted in Miss. Legislature

Mississippi legislators have set a new budget-writing rule, but only after arguing about whether it increases accountability or limits most lawmakers’ power to boost spending on education and other programs.

Senators voted 32-16 Wednesday to adopt the Legislature’s joint operating rules for the four-year term that started last month. The House approved the rules 72-48 Monday.
Republicans now control both chambers, and Republican leaders pushed the budget-writing change. Before this term, Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats controlled the House.

During rocky economic times the past few years, House and Senate leaders were frequently at odds over how much money to spend and how much to leave in various accounts that make up the state’s financial reserves. Republicans often accused Democrats of wanting to deplete the savings accounts, while Democrats often accused Republicans of underfunding education, health care and other state services.

Under the new budget rule, any legislator who wants to add money to a state program must say specifically which other agency’s budget they’d cut to find the extra cash. The legislator could not request that additional money be pulled from financial reserves, even if there are hundreds of millions in reserve.

Sun Herald
2/15/12