Rainy day fund used to cover mistakes, not unexpected circumstances

Published 10:37 am Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Gov. Phil Bryant’s call for a special legislative session on June 28 to deal with 2016 budget year issues convenes as state agencies at many levels develop a clearer picture of how much, if any, funding has been cut from program budgets for the new year, beginning Friday.

According to House Bill 1645, nearly $11.2 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2017 is in the state general fund for the support and maintenance of the Mississippi Library Commission, but that amount is 7.8 percent less than the $12.049 million in the 2016 budget.

Bryant has limited his special session call to transferring money from the state’s $350 million rainy day fund to cover revenue shortfalls anticipated as the 2016 fiscal year ends. His request is unprecedented.

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The FY2017 state budget calls for a $15,746 reduction in funding for the Lee County Library, a 13 percent reduction from state funds.

The budget reductions mean fewer books, audiobooks, DVDs and other materials.

Gov. Bryant, Lt. Gov. Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn all believe the 2016 situation can be resolved with the transfer.

The leadership of the Democratic minority, on the other hand, has called for a more extensive special session to deal with budget woes that will face the state starting with the July 1 budget, starting Friday.

Numerous state agencies already have said they are facing shortfalls that will result in layoffs and a reduction in services. The Department of Mental Health is ending multiple programs, such as the chemical dependency units for adult males. The Department of Health plans to shut down a program that aims to reduce the state’s high infant mortality rates.

Democrats contend the multiple tax cuts passed in recent years, primarily for businesses, have led to the slowdown in state revenue collections.

We don’t expect this one-day session to end differences about the 2017 budget or tax policy.

It should be remembered that the spirit of the rainy day fund is to help cover unexpected circumstances, not mistakes that could have been avoided with proper planning.

—The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal