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State’s revenue may exceed the budget

A Brookhaven legislator is hopeful revenue estimations for the state will continue an upward trend.

Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, in her fourth year on the Budget Committee, said revenue estimations were revised recently and are higher than expected. When the committee — which includes members from both the Senate and the House —  met last week to estimate the revenue for the next year’s budget, they had one big question on their minds.

“What will be the tax receipts for the year?” she said.

The majority of taxes in Mississippi come from personal income tax, sales tax and corporate tax.

“In all three of those areas our collections are up this year and so we raised the projection for this current budget year,” she said.

The total state revenue was getting close to $6 billion during fiscal 2019, which ended June 30. It was about $5.7 billion in 2018. When Doty joined the Legislature in 2012, the general fund budget was $5.4 billion.

The committee adopted the projection of about $5.99 billion for the next fiscal year.

“We’re almost at that $6 billion mark,” she said.

The committee makes that projection a year in advance, but the numbers aren’t written in rock.

“We make that projection, but then, throughout the year we meet and can adjust it,” she said.

Doty has ideas about why collections came in higher.

“The economy has been much stronger this year. Our employment rate is down, and we have more money in people’s pockets,” she said.

Back in September, the Budget Committee heard spending requests from education officials and leaders of the Division of Medicaid, the state Supreme Court and the departments of public safety and wildlife, fisheries and parks.

Doty said the committee will face increase requests of more than $877 million for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. These are increases over the budget amounts that were appropriated last year, she said.

The Budget Committee usually makes a first set of spending recommendations, and members typically oppose many requests from agencies. That information is sent to the full Legislature and all 52 senators and 122 House members will get to vote on final budget proposals during the spring.

Doty praised those lawmakers who are continually pushing for a fiscally conservative budget, which has created a $500 million rainy-day fund, she said.

Mississippi requires legislators to balance the budget each year. In years when Mississippi revenue falls short of expectations, the governor must make mid-year spending cuts.

During the budget year that ran from July 2015 through June 2016, Gov. Phil Bryant had to reduce budgets twice because of lagging tax collections.