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Sen. Sally Doty weighs in on budget recommendations

The state’s joint legislative budget committee plans to release a list of recommendations for the next fiscal year on Dec. 8 in response to Gov. Phil Bryant’s recommendations that he released earlier this month.

Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, who serves on the 12-member committee, has been in meetings over the past several weeks to determine revenue estimates and spending levels for 2018. Doty said those numbers should be taken with caution.

According to Bryant’s executive budget recommendations, projected general fund revenues are $5.7761 billion, with 1.8 percent growth from FY 2017.

“Estimating revenues this far out is difficult and speculative, so I favor a very conservative approach,” Doty said.

Bryant said his priorities are to keep spending at or below 98 percent of available revenue, build savings, avoid using one-time money for recurring expenses and to prioritize core functions. Included in the budget is a recommended increase of $16.4 million in the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

“The governor’s budget is closely aligned with my goals to increase funding for K-12 education and hold current levels steady for essential public safety services with smaller cuts to other agencies,” Doty said.

For many agencies, there is a 1.8 percent cut in the executive budget recommendation, but there is also a $13.4 million increase for Child Protection Services.

The recommendation also seeks to increase sales taxes revenue by enforcing sales tax for online retailers, something that could be costing the state over $134 million in tax revenue, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Until there is action at the federal level, policymakers should consider establishing a voluntary remittance program for out-of-state online sellers,” Bryant said in the recommendation.

In Mississippi there are many rural areas, including Lincoln County and Brookhaven, and Doty said those would be a priority for her.

“I am concerned with smaller towns and rural areas that often must meet high federal or state regulations for roads, water, sewer or other infrastructure and budget policies that would send dollars to those areas,” Doty said.

Neither the executive budget recommendation or the joint legislative budget committee recommendation to be published in December are final.

“The final budget will come together in March during the last week or so of session,” Doty said.

Rep. Vince Mangold, R-Brookhaven, and Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, were not immediately available for comment.