The Mississippi Legislature convened on Monday, June 5, for a special session called by Governor Phil Bryant.
The special session was necessary after appropriations for the Attorney General’s office, the Mississippi Department of Transportation and State Aid Roads were not agreed upon during the regular session.
Governor Bryant faced pressure to expand the special session to include increasing taxes and borrowing. I am please that he resisted that pressure and protected the people of Mississippi from the ever growing government intrusion into our lives. Many in state government lament the fact that government agencies have been forced to reduce their budgets. They long for days when government has more money to fund more programs and continue the its exponential growth.
The 2018 budget for the State of Mississippi is over $6 billion and while state agencies have experience budget cuts none are so drastic that they can not perform their mission. In fact, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee related to the House a conversation he had with the Director of the State Department of Health. Chairman Reed was told that the department is restructuring and implementing cost savings measures but they are still capable of performing their duties. That is just one example of where budget cuts are good, they are forcing state agencies to spend YOUR money better.
In addition to deciding on budgets for these entities, the Governor also called for legislators to vote on the creation of the Financial and Operational Responses that Invigorate Future Years (FORTIFY) Act and make clarifications to the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act.
The House voted first on House Bill 2, which detailed appropriations for MDOT. House members removed many special projects from the original bill, crafted by the Senate. The House has taken a stand against legislators filling appropriation bills with personal pork projects and stood strong on that conviction. The House also passed a budget for the Attorney General’s office, in the form of House Bill 1, and allotted $175 million to State Aid Road Construction in the form of Senate Bill 2003.
Discussion ensued when the FORTIFY Act, Senate Bill 2002, was introduced to the House floor. The Governor included this in the special session in order to help bolster Mississippi’s credit rating. The act increases the cap on the Rainy Day Fund from 7.5 percent to 10 percent. It also provides for more unencumbered cash to be directed to the Rainy Day Fund and the Capital Expense Fund, and it stops projected cash balances from being added to the estimate used to formulate the budget. There is also a section that requires the Legislative Budget Office to prepare a multi-year financial plan. The FORTIFY Act passed the House by a vote of 73-41. I voted YES on this bill.
Senate Bill 2001, restructures the way several state accounts are held, changing some “special funds” to general fund accounts. This will allow the state to more accurately gauge the tax dollars on hand. The measure passed 73-43. I voted YES on this bill.
Finally, Governor Bryant added two items to the special session agenda on Monday that passed without much discussion. House Bill 5 authorized the Secretary of State to make payments due to the Point Cadet Leasing Fund, providing Biloxi with its share of the revenue from leases in the Point Cadet commercial development. House Bill 6 appropriated money to the Secretary of State for distribution to local governments where back taxes are owed.
The House convened at 10am and adjourned sine die just over 12 hours later, completing its work and ending the session. Legislative leadership trimmed several days from the regular session earlier this year, which helped ensure that this one day special session incurred no additional costs to taxpayers.
Thank you to the people of Olive Branch for allowing me to serve as your representative in the Mississippi legislature. If you have any questions, request, or concerns please contact me at Dana@DanaCriswell.net or on my cell phone at 901-275-4191