MS Supreme Court, Personnel Board meet with budget writers

By Ashley Porter - email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - This week, state lawmakers will hear from dozens of state agencies as they start to plan next year's budget. But with declining revenue, limited federal stimulus dollars, and other financial challenges, not all the requests will be fulfilled.

"[Without enough money,] our courthouses wouldn't be open to serve the public," said Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller, Jr. "If we're not able to make this funding up, we're going to be laying off staff attorneys. There's no other place to [make cuts.]"

Like many agencies this week, the court is giving a budget to lawmakers, and hoping for the best.

"Our appropriation for the last fiscal year was cut about seven percent," Justice Waller said.

The judicial branch request doesn't call for pay raises, but it asks to restore cuts suffered this year. It also asks for nearly $2 million to be moved around to fill what the budget request calls a "serious, immediate need" in the judiciary.

"We are hopeful that cooler minds will prevail and that we will be adequately funded," Waller said.

The Mississippi State Personnel Board also appealed to lawmakers Monday, promoting the idea of cutting costs by changing paper job applications to online forms.

"This is going to allow agencies to give us job orders and that one job order is going to allow a bigger talent pool," said Lynn Fitch, Executive Director of the Personnel Board.

But during budget talks Monday, that idea didn't sit well with everyone.

"There are people who don't know how to use computers, and that's a lot of people in this state," said State Representative D. Stephen Holland, a democrat from Plantersville.

"Well, there's also the call center," Fitch responded. "We'll be in libraries and WIN Job Centers, and then there's a call center too."

"Well, I don't like that," Holland replied.

Lawmakers will hear from seven state departments, including the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the Mississippi State Department of Health, on Tuesday.

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