Lawmakers miss deadline to pass state budget, will likely extend session

Published 9:32 am Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Mississippi lawmakers missed a Monday night deadline to complete their budget work and now will have to extend the regular session or wait for Gov. Tate Reeves to call a special session to fund public education and other key agencies.

Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, told House members late Monday afternoon there were about 25 budget bills where work had not been completed to reach agreement between legislative leaders ahead of a midnight deadline. He said House leaders will attempt on Tuesday to garner the two-thirds majority vote needed to extend the session for “one or two days” in order to meet the Mississippi Constitution requirement that all appropriations and revenue bills be passed before the final five days of the session.

The session is currently scheduled to end Sunday. Lawmakers could vote to extend the session on paper but still finish by Sunday’s scheduled final day.

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At the heart of the missed deadline is a fight between House and Senate leaders over the budget bill for K-12 schools.

The Senate voted to make small adjustments to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the formula that provides the state’s share of funds to local school districts, and fully fund it for the first time since the 2007-2008 school year.

House leaders, though, have rejected the Senate plan, saying they do not want to put any additional funds in the MAEP formula. The full membership of the House has not been allowed to vote on the Senate plan.

House leaders have said they wanted to provide specific earmarks for education, but not provide additional funds for MAEP, which pays the state’s share for the basic needs of school districts, such as teacher salaries, textbooks and transportation.

While agreement eluded lawmakers on education and other budget bills, many of the more than 100 budget bills have already been passed.

Lawmakers agreed on spending $104 million to bail out the states struggling hospitals.

Another bill – funding the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks – provides $13 million for the LeFluer’s Bluff Education and Tourism Complex in Jackson “in coordination” with the Mississippi Children’s Museum.

Last year Gov. Tate Reeves vetoed a similar appropriation that included a golf course in the LeFluer’s Bluff area. The governor said then that the state did not need to be in the business of building golf courses.

Supporters at the time said the project included various improvements in an area where multiple museums and playgrounds and other recreational facilities are located.

The bill this year does not say whether the project includes a golf course, but said the money is being appropriated “to provide tourism, education and recreational activities that contribute to community well-being.”

By Bobby Harrison and Geoff Pender