Phil Bryant is grounded, and the Legislature's allowance is being reduced. This week, Bryant made his first executive budget recommendation to lawmakers at the Capitol. As expected, he took a do-the-same-with-less approach to government spending.
Bryant's recommendations are based on a $5.49 billion state budget for the 2013 fiscal year and include $4.56 billion in projected general fund revenue.
He proposed 5.35 percent in cuts to state agencies and, in an attempt to lead by example, a 6.5 percent reduction in funds to the governor's office. Part of the savings for Bryant's office would come from selling one of two planes the state owns for about $2 million.
"If it's not urgent, I don't mind flying Delta or Southwest," Bryant said. Or he would hitch a ride with a businessman who owns a plane, he added.
The governor's budget also plans to use $274.3 million of the state's available $280.7 million in cash reserves. He asked lawmakers to consider returning to the practice of setting aside 2 percent of the budget into a rainy day fund. Or, if they prefer, a flat $100 million.
Bryant's spending plan calls for no cuts to several areas and agencies, including court-ordered settlements, debt service, the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy, the Military Department, the Veteran Affairs Board, district attorneys, the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Student Financial Aid, the Board Certified Teacher Program and the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
Other budget proposals include:
• Level funding MAEP using $1.95 billion in state funds and $72.9 million in local reserve funds.
• $6 million to an Emergency Bridge Loan Fund.
• $3.7 million increase above fiscal year 2012 funding to Chickasaw Interest, as required by law.
• $12 million total to Teach for America and the Mississippi Teachers Corps.
• $5.7 million to fully fund high-growth districts.
• Existing $27 million appropriation for work force development now goes directly to community colleges that administer programs.
• Medicaid's fiscal 2013 appropriation is level to fiscal year 2012 at $763 million. The Center for Medicaid Services projects 36,000 new eligible enrollees this year.
The governor also proposed jettisoning the current line-item budgeting system in favor of a lump-sum method that gives agency heads more flexibility in running their departments.
"I trust agency directors; I trust elected officials," Bryant said.
He added that the state Department of Revenue received $23 million more than it expected. If the trend continues, he said, his budget recommendation could change.
The Legislature has until the end of the session in early May to pass a spending plan.
Meanwhile, the Mississippi House of Representatives came out of hibernation to being submitting bills. As of Tuesday, the House had filed just 16 bills.
Comment at http://www.jfp.ms.