Not long ago words like "bleak", "dismal" and "grim " would have come to mind when describing Mississippi's budget situation. Now the state treasurer says that's changing. In fact, he predicts a balanced budget next year.
According to Tate Reeves , Mississippi collected $250 million more in sales and income taxes in fiscal year 2005 than it did in 2004. Reeves told Kiwanis Club members that painful budget cutbacks and deep financial sacrifices are starting to pay off for Mississippi.
"These decisions are what needed to be made," he said. "Often times it has not always been pretty, but I do think we've made significant progress."
The progress is that in fiscal year 2006, the state budget deficit will be $100 million dollars. That's $600 million less than in fiscal year 2005.
The debt burden is money Mississippi has borrowed and must pay back over the long term. Tate says in fiscal year 2006 that will drop from $3.2 billion dollars to $3.1 billion, which is the first decrease since 1987.
"We must take the approach in state government that you can only spend as much as you take in," said Reeves. "Over the long haul, you must have a balanced budget."
Reeves gives part of the credit for the improvements to the state's finances to Governor Barbour. He says Barbour's approach to economic development not only tries to lure in new businesses, but also offers incentives to existing ones, like Northrop Grumman, so they can expand their workforce.
"This means that we can return the balance in our budget through economic growth and economic prosperity rather than trying to raise taxes on the people across Mississippi," said Reeves.
"I believe anytime there is a choice between Mississippians having to tighten their belt or state government having to tighten its belt, we should always side with the taxpayers and let state government tighten its belt."
State Treasurer Tate Reeves says at least 13,000 new jobs have been created since Governor Barbour took office.