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Governor calls ‘extraordinary’ legislative session

Gov. Phil Bryant has called a special session of the Mississippi Legislature that will begin at 10 a.m. Monday. The session will focus on state appropriations and incorporating best practices that will bolster the state’s ability to maintain a balanced budget and healthy finances.

“The session should last one, perhaps two days, in order to minimize costs to taxpayers,” Gov. Bryant said.

The call for the special session will include the Fortify Act, which:

• Requires a multi-year financial plan from the legislative budget office.

• Increases the Rainy Day Fund cap from 7.5 percent of current fiscal year appropriations to 10 percent. Many other states have recently increased statutory caps on savings accounts due to volatile revenue trends and the need for more flexibility.

• Revises the distribution of unencumbered cash, which represents a cash balance at the end of the fiscal year, so that more funds will be directed to our savings account and the Capital Expense Fund.

• Stops projected cash balances in the prior year from being added to the revenue estimate to formulate the budget. Since revenue estimates, upon which funds are appropriated, are made before the end of the fiscal year, it is impossible to know how much cash balance will carry over to the next fiscal year. This takes some of the guess work out of preparing the budget and allows for the purest estimate of revenue.

• Eliminates the Budget Contingency Fund, an old account that is no longer used as originally intended. In addition, rating agencies have had complaints about how it has been used in the past.

The special session will also make clarifications to the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act. This includes several technical amendments to the 2016 legislation that reformed how the state manages special budget funds. This will entail clarifying some of the bill’s language with regard to trust fund accounts and allow for federal funds to be spent on utilities and technology, where appropriate.

In addition, the session will address appropriations for the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Office of State-aid Road and the Office of the Attorney General.