Gov. Phil Bryant presented his Fiscal Year 2015 budget to the Legislature today, calling for building state savings and keeping spending in check.
"This budget addresses state priorities with three guiding principles in mind: spending prudently, saving for the future and prioritizing the core functions of government," Gov. Bryant said.
Gov. Bryant's $6.1 billion balanced budget maintains his commitment to use only 98 percent of the General Fund revenue estimate. It spends zero one-time money for recurring expenses and includes no across-the-board agency growth.
Gov. Bryant's budget also provides $70 million for the first step in a five-year plan for repairs and renovations to state property that increases cash for capital needs and subsequently decreases bond debt. Per the plan's first year of implementation, $27 million will be administered by the DFA for needs at state agencies that do not manage their own capital needs, and $43 million is recommended as a direct appropriation among agencies that self-manage their capital needs. Full five-year implementation of this plan could help Mississippi save $256 million in debt service costs because the state will be able to pay cash for many repair and renovation needs instead of issuing bond debt.
The budget also establishes a $16 million building repair fund for the K-12 system.
In order to build the state's reserves and guard against the potential impacts of a slow national economy, Gov. Bryant's budget spends none of the Rainy Day Fund, achieving $171 million in savings.
"While Mississippi's economy grew by 2.4 percent in 2012 and our Gross Domestic Product totaled more than $100 billion for the first time, the temptation may exist to loosen budget discipline and begin spending with less caution. But this would be the wrong course for Mississippi."
The governor's continued commitment to the "98 percent rule" will also yield an additional $108 million set aside at the close of Fiscal Year 2015 if revenues meet projections. After year-end calculations, a portion of the set aside will be deposited into the Rainy Day Fund, which would help bring the balance to about half of its statutory limit.
"The Rainy Day Fund has been the safety net it was intended to be in lean years. As Lieutenant Governor, I worked to fill this fund to its statutory limit, and the reserves the state saved in those years helped mitigate the impacts of the Great Recession," Gov. Bryant said.
"I am adamant that Mississippi again fill the Rainy Day Fund to its statutory limit. Failure to save while times are good is unfair to taxpayers, and it has the potential to erode other successes in an instant if we are forced to make cuts in the face of another national recession."
Gov. Bryant's budget also recommends $8 million to expand the state's network of Community Health Centers, which served more than 325,000 patients in 2012. There are currently 21 principal Community Health Centers in Mississippi, and many operate satellite locations. Most of the people Community Health Centers serve have incomes below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit. Many are also uninsured.
"I have seen firsthand the quality of care that is being provided at these Community Health Centers," Bryant said. "This expansion will offer more Mississippians more access to primary care services. Further, research indicates that by providing high quality primary care and preventive services to vulnerable populations, Community Health Centers reduce avoidable use of high-cost services in emergency and inpatient settings, in turn lowering health care costs."
Gov. Bryant's $8 million recommendation includes two new initiatives, which should be administered by the Mississippi State Department of Health:
* Primary Care Capacity Building Program -- $4.8 million will be administered as grant funding to Community Health Centers that build their capacity by offering extended hours, expanding satellite locations or establishing emergency room diversion programs with local hospitals.
* Mississippi Incubator Program -- $3.2 million will also be administered as incubator grant funding by the Department of Health. These funds can be used to help launch new Community Health Centers or to help existing non-certified make necessary changes to become federally certified. The State of Texas started a similar incubator program in 2003 and has since launched 28 new Community Health Centers through its program.
Additional budget highlights include:
* Provides level funding for MAEP.
* Provides $22.3 million in targeted increases to K-12 education, including the $16 million building fund, $750,000 for the DuBard School for Language Disorders, funding to satisfy the state's commitments to the Chickasaw Interest, and $1.5 million to help interested schools use the ACT as a high school exit exam.
* Continues funding for Gov. Bryant's Education Works priorities:
* Satisfies request of National Board Certified Teacher Program, $22.6 million.
* Recommends $8 million increase to Community College Support.
➢ $1.149 million for 22 new dual enrollment programs.
➢ $3.75 million for new career tech/workforce programs.
➢ $1.5 million to expand GED outreach effort.
➢ Remaining increase should be directed to additional workforce development efforts.
* Recommends additional $14 million as part of DFA Capital Needs plan.
* Satisfies full request, $394 million.
* Fully funds student financial aid $37.7 million.
* Recommends additional $19 million as part of DFA Capital Needs plan.
* $2 million for 16 additional Assistant District Attorneys to be hired around the state.
* Full funding of drug court deficit ($4 million) and full funding of ideal model in FY 15 ($7 million in state support, which is in addition to approximately $4 million the courts already generate through assessments.)
* Full funding for the Mississippi Department of Corrections in FY 15 ($362 million), as well as a $22.4 million deficit for FY 14. The budget additionally provides $4 million as part of DFA Capital Needs Plan.
Mississippi Highway Patrol:
➢ Provides $6.9 million to conduct a trooper school.
➢ Also provides an approximate increase of $4.7
➢ Funding for 73 new cars and 512 new bullet proof vests.
➢ Budget also includes second in a series of three payments for the driver's license modernization project.
State Crime Lab:
➢ Provides $2.75 million increase to assist with moving to new facility and filling vacant positions.
State Medical Examiner:
➢ Provides $766,000 increase to fund empty positions, some of which have been vacant for three years. Filing these positions will help reduce the overall caseload of individual examiners.
Strike Force Effort:
➢ Budget proves $1.5 million to establish new strike forces that will work around the state to address needs in high crime areas.
Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics increase includes:
➢ Full funding at $13.7 million. Increase includes new agents and new criminal intelligence analysts.
➢ MBN recommendation also includes $845,000 to help offset cuts to local drug task forces.
Mississippi National Guard:
➢ Full funding for Military ($9.8 million), plus $1 million extra to build new Youth Challenge barracks at Camp Shelby, which will help double the size of that program.
* Targeted increases for UMMC that will help support the School of Medicine's growth and ensure that we retain the doctors we train:
➢ $3.8 million so UMMC can establish more residencies and fellowships at its hospital as more students graduate from the School of Medicine.
➢ $2.4 million for the successful Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. Last session, the cap was lifted on the number of scholarships and instead tied awards to the amount of available funding. This appropriation will provide 60 scholarships for students who agree to practice a primary care discipline in a rural area.
➢ $310,000 for the Rural Dentist Scholarship Program. This program was established last year and was started with 3 scholarships. This appropriation brings the total to 6.
* Level funds ($1.5 million) Office of Physician Workforce, established under Governor Bryant's 2012 legislative agenda.
Division of Medicaid:
* Funded at $883 million
* Budget also recommends an additional $4.4 million to offset a portion of DSH payments hospitals anticipate losing as a result of Obamacare.
"This balanced budget funds Mississippi's highest priorities-- investing in our children by continuing to improve our education outcomes, protecting public safety, continuing our economic development efforts and ensuring the basic function of critical government systems."