Countdown to 2017 legislative session

Countdown to 2017 legislative session

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Lawmakers from around Mississippi will converge on the capital Tuesday for the start of the 2017 legislative session. State leaders will put Mississippi's budget center stage when the curtain rises on the new legislative session.

Budget committees are looking at a proposed budget of $6.1 billion for fiscal year 2018, which begins in July. That is the same amount appropriated to run the state this year.

Revenue has been flat, and lawmakers will approach spending on a cautious note, hoping to see economic improvement in the first quarter of 2017.

"We'll take an update sometime in March right before we start the appropriations process. Hopefully we'll see a rebound with our economy, and maybe that number will go up. That will give us a little more flexibility. For the most part, we expect the budget to be flat," said state Rep. Scott Delano.

A goal has been set to reduce spending by three percent, using efficiency as a model to achieve that.

Under the budget, education funding should hold steady at $2.2 billion.

Coast legislative leaders will be fighting to ensure South Mississippi receives a lion's share of the BP economic damages dollars coming to the state. Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have said a majority of the funds should be spent on projects in the three coastal counties. Reeves, will have the power to follow through on the pledge in the Mississippi Senate.

"I'm looking forward to the Lt. Governor's leadership in bringing something to the senate floor, getting it passed, and bringing it over to the house. I expect that in February. That's if it happens this year. There's nothing that says it has to happen this year, but we'd like to see things move forward, get rolling, and get this money into play," said Delano.

The budget will ask all state agencies to be more mindful of how they spend money. According to House Speaker Phillip Gunn and Reeves, funding priorities have been set for the Department of Public Safety, which covers the Mississippi Highway Patrol, public schools, and the newly created Child Protection Agency charged with overseeing the state's foster care system.

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