State may eliminate vacant jobs to balance its budget

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Lawmakers in Jackson may eliminate 2,000 vacant jobs.  That plan is part of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's recommendation for fiscal year 2015.

This morning, WLOX News received a news release from Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.  In it, Reeves discusses the $5.86 billion proposed budget for next year.  The plan adopted by the budget committee maintains current agency spending while reducing more than 2,000 vacant positions.

The proposed budget only increases total spending by $36.3 million, or 0.6 percent above last year's spending levels. The budget prioritizes education spending by increasing funding for the Institutions of Higher Learning (2.6 percent), community colleges (3.3 percent) and K-12 General Education (12.9 percent). It also includes $20 million for bridge replacement on state aid roads, $49 million for R&R, $10 million for the Public School Building Fund, and an additional $3.3 million to move towards full funding of Homestead Exemption.

"This is a realistic budget that only utilizes recurring revenues for recurring expenses. For the first time in at least 10 years, there is no one-time money in this proposal for operating expenses," Reeves said. "The legislature will also continue to focus on reducing the overall debt burden. This budget continues that trend by stopping the practice of issuing debt for recurring repairs, and that is why our proposal allocates $20 million for bridge repair from cash, not bonds."

The recommendation by the JLBC also suggests $548 million be reserved for increasing the balance of the Rainy Day Fund to an optimal level, allocation by the legislature to address additional needs in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, held for allocation during future budget years, or provide tax relief to improve Mississippi's economic competitiveness.

"When you consider the fact this LBR holds the line on spending while investing in our priorities and maintaining adequate reserves, this is the most fiscally responsible budget plan released in many, many years," Reeves concluded.

The LBR serves as a starting point for budget talks during the upcoming legislative session. The next fiscal year begins July 2014.

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