State budget work begins

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Though lawmakers can ignore it, Gov. Phil Bryant on Tuesday released his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

It’s worth noting that Bryant’s budget includes increases for foster care and K-12 education. Both of those are deserving of more state funding, especially the foster care system.

Bryant says he wants to maintain current spending levels for public safety, military operations, veterans’ services, emergency management, prosecutors and community colleges, according to The Associated Press.

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The new fiscal year will begin July 1, 2017.

As expected, there were some recommended cuts as well. Bryant proposes cutting budgets for many agencies by 1.8 percent. State agencies have become accustomed to budget cuts and those affected likely won’t be surprised.

The budget process is a long and tedious one. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee will release its own proposal in the spring. Lawmakers will then consider — or ignore — those recommendations, and others, before crafting a budget.

Bryant’s budget follows the news that legislative leaders have increased revenue estimates for the current year and the next. If the revenue estimates hold for this year, it means further cuts won’t be necessary this fiscal year. But the $69.7 million increase represents only a small percentage of the state’s budget. Every little bit helps, but even with the revised expectations, revenue would still be down compared to the prior fiscal year.

As legislative leaders begin the process of creating a new budget, they should prioritize funding for agencies and programs that directly impact the least among us. Foster care and K-12 education certainly fit that description. Let’s hope legislators agree with Bryant that more funding is needed for both.