From the Clarion Ledger…

By the end of the week, state budget writers are likely to hear funding requests for the coming year that total as much as $1 billion more than they had to spend this year.

No one expects the state to have the money to cover all of the requests, but agency heads began meeting with key lawmakers in Jackson on Monday to start the budgeting process for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2012.

“Most agencies are at the end of their ropes,” said House Appropriations Chairman Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose. “One day we’ll have to slow down on the cuts.”

As in past years, some agencies are using the Joint Legislative Budget Committee hearings this week as a chance to plead for more money. Others are requesting no additional cuts as the state heads into what is expected to be another difficult budget year with federal stimulus funds going away.

Lawmakers are still months away from knowing how much money they will have to spend on the coming year, but already officials are predicting most agencies’ budgets will see cuts or level funding.

“This is all projection – this is all a recommendation by the agencies themselves,” said Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who co-chairs the budget committee.

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