State agencies prepare to make budget pitches

New Department of Marine Resources Director Jamie Miller this week will ask lawmakers for a nearly $430,000 increase to the $1.1 million his agency receives from the state’s general-fund coffers.

It will be a tough sell. Miller’s agency is the subject of a state and federal probe of spending under his predecessor, who was fired early this year. The coastal agency also handles millions a year in federal and other money, and there are reports of potentially millions of dollars misspent or mismanaged.

“I don’t know the particulars, but I’m looking forward to hearing from the new director what is leading to this request,” said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who’ll be running this week’s hearings for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. “I wouldn’t be surprised if his request goes over like a lead balloon.”

Miller said he’s not surprised by this sentiment. He hopes he can change it by early next year when lawmakers adopt a budget of more than $5.7 billion.

“I think that’s the right response,” Miller said. “That’s likely the exact attitude I would have if I were looking from the outside-in. We’ve got to rebuild trust, give the Legislature the confidence to give us money to fulfill our mission.”

Clarion Ledger