There is constant chatter about a budget crisis in Mississippi, with Gov. Phil Bryant cutting this fiscal year’s budget and borrowing from the so-called “rainy day fund” several times, including earlier this week.
Why can’t the Mississippi Legislature — with a Republican supermajority in both chambers — make the budgetary numbers add up? Here are a few charts that explain why:
The Legislature has increased general fund spending every year for the past five years, a practice that Bryant has asked to end in his recommended budget. Since fiscal 2012, general fund appropriations have increased 26 percent, while the U.S. inflation rate has decreased from 3 percent in 2011 down to 2.5 percent.
In past years, tax revenue projections were usually pretty close to, or even more conservative than, what ended up being the state’s final tally. Starting in fiscal 2015, the projected revenues began to diverge significantly from what the state collected.
In 2015, the difference was $57 million, and it increased to $291 million in 2016. With fiscal 2017 not ending until June 30, the state is already more than $107 million short of the estimate.
Medicaid has been one of the biggest drivers of increased spending by lawmakers. In fiscal 2012, the state’s share of the program was $169 million. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act — which increased the number of people eligible to participate in the program — taxpayers spent $927 million in fiscal 2016. In 2010, more than 690,000 Mississippi residents were enrolled in Medicaid. That number climbed to more than 777,000 by January 2016.
K-12 education spending, while not fully funded under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, has increased every year since fiscal 2012, going from $2.02 billion in 2012 to $2.24 billion in fiscal 2017.
The state continues to borrow more money for projects, including a Continental tire plant under construction in western Hinds County. Last year, the Legislature added more than $582 million to the state’s credit card, with $274 million to help build the tire plant and shipyard in Gulfport, while $308 million went to a Christmas tree bond bill with lots of projects. Debt service is now the third largest appropriation in the budget behind Medicaid and all education (K-12 and higher education) appropriations.